Justice Baynes appoints ombudsman, tells SUNY to get rid of armed guards
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Long Island College Hospital (LICH) supporters celebrated a victory in Cobble Hill late Friday after Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes ordered the immediate restoration of hospital services and staffing to the levels that were in place on July 19.
Justice Baynes also ordered SUNY Downstate, which has been trying to close LICH despite several court orders, to immediately restore or repair any equipment that was in place on July 19.
The “standstill order” will keep LICH open for care until discussions between SUNY Downstate and a number of groups working to keep LICH open resolve the matter through negotiation. In his order, Justice Baynes said that he has been advised by the Special Referee “that the parties are engaged in ongoing good faith negotiations and hope to resolve the matter to their satisfaction.”
“SUNY tried to padlock this hospital four weeks ago. We’ve watched it violate court orders in broad daylight. Now, the court is putting all that to an end. These steps will ensure this community will have continuity of care for the immediate future,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who has put his all into keeping the hospital open, even getting arrested during a rally. “This is a huge step forward.”
Twitter was buzzing long into the night with congratulations from patients, staff and representatives who have been working around the clock to keep the hospital open.
“YES we Can! Yes we DID! LICH Saves Lives! Thanks all!” tweeted Susan Raboy, a local resident and long-time patient at LICH.
Though staffing at LICH will still not be at full capacity, restored services will include key areas like emergency care, the Intensive Care Unit, inpatient medical beds, surgery arising from emergency room patients, and laboratory, radiology, social work and pharmacy services, among others.
Treatment of patients must be governed by the medical judgements of the treating physicians, Justice Baynes ordered. A LICH doctor had testified last week that SUNY had attempted to transfer patients out of LICH against the medical judgement of their doctors.
To monitor SUNY’s compliance with his order, Justice Baynes said he would appoint an ombudsman whose name and contact number must be posted “in 36-inch type” at central points around the hospital.
The five-page order also demanded that SUNY remove the scores of armed and unarmed guards that have been posted both inside and outside the hospital (other than those deemed necessary for “crowd control and safety”). LICH staffers had complained that SUNY was using the guards to intimidate both patients and staff as a tactic to shut down the hospital.
Further, Justice Baynes insisted that SUNY Downstate issue a formal “retraction letter” telling patients that LICH clinics are not slated for closure unless and until the Court deems otherwise. The letter will countermand the “closure letter” sent by SUNY on August 9.
Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, said in a statement, "Once again, the Court has ruled that SUNY must stop creating chaos for Brooklyn patients and must keep LICH open for care. SUNY has violated every single court order that they have received up until now. They need to stop disrespecting the law and stop hurting care for Brooklyn patients. Nurses and caregivers are ready to care for patients at LICH."
SUNY Downstate spokesperson Robert Bellafiore said in a statement, "“We will comply with the Court’s order to maintain the status quo as of July 19th 4 p.m. as we continue to work toward a settlement to resolve all the issues. As always, patient health and safety will remain our most important concern. SUNY is committed to the critical work of preserving Brooklyn's only medical school and moving forward with UHB restructuring, as outlined in the sustainability plan.”
The order was secured through litigation by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, New York State Nurses Association, 1199SEIU, Boerum Hill Association, Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Cobble Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association, Wyckoff Gardens Association, Riverside Tenants’ Association and two community residents.
The entire order can be read at: http://advocate.nyc.gov/LICH-order
Updated August 18 with a comment from SUNY spokesperson Robert Bellafiore.