Attorney General investigating case of Celso Heredia
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An 81-year-old man suffering from dementia, Celso Heredia, disappeared from Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on Wednesday, on a day when 650 staffers there were placed on administrative leave by SUNY Downstate, which is trying to close down LICH.
According to the NYPD, Heredia, who does not speak English, was last seen at LICH at 3:45 p.m. wearing a blue plaid shirt, blue jeans, and a baseball cap. Heredia was the subject of several news articles in June after he was discovered wandering along the BQE with $300 dollars in his pocket.
Doctors and nurses have submitted affidavits stating they have been fighting SUNY Downstate’s attempts to transfer patients out of LICH since a court order was issued by an Appellate Court judge requiring Downstate to maintain services at LICH at last Friday’s level.
The battle continued on Thursday as the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer refused to admit an infant needing urgent care in spite of doctors’ and parents’ entreaties. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Assemblywoman Joan Millman were at the scene at press time attempting to get the baby admitted. Update: The Brooklyn Eagle was informed late Thursday that the baby was admitted after pressure from de Blasio and Millman.
A longtime LICH nurse told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday that the hospital discharged Heredia last Thursday night and bought him a Greyhound bus ticket for 7:45 a.m. Friday.
“An 81-year-old man, Spanish speaking, no address, no family here – they discharged him and bought him a Greyhound bus ticket in the middle of a heat wave on Thursday night. A 36-hour ride with stopovers somewhere in the south, all by himself. He had no place to go, and nurses would not complete the discharge -- they kept him there,” she said.
The nurse said she then learned that the hospital was in the process of buying Heredia a plane ticket. “They were in the process of securing the plane ticket and a van, when Channel 11 comes over with a copy of the bus ticket and the discharge sheet. I called the nurse on the fifth floor and she told us what was going on. I was dumbfounded,” she said. “When do we buy people bus tickets? That’s not allowed.”
“Channel 11 called [interim LICH President James] Karkenny and they stopped it. That was on Friday, when they [Downstate] were pulling patients out. The patient stayed in the hospital over the weekend,” she added.
On Tuesday, PIX11 reported that the Attorney General’s office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was investigating the case.
By late Wednesday, however, despite armed security guards posted at every hospital exit and newly installed security cameras, Heredia was nowhere to be found.
SUNY Downstate spokesperson Robert Bellafiore had no comment about Heredia’s disappearance. "Federal laws are very serious about preserving patient privacy and so are we," he told the Brooklyn Eagle via email.
The A.G.’s office did not respond to a request for information by press time. If anyone has any information about Heredia, please contact 1-800-577-TIPS(8477)