But will LICH assets be protected locally?
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn state representatives have in place separate bills that could move forward if the sale of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) were actually to come to pass.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush has been moving to close the Cobble Hill hospital in spite of a court order to keep it in operation and a prolonged battle from local residents, staff and health advocates.
If LICH were to be sold, however, representatives say they want to make sure the money is used to strengthen SUNY Downstate, provide healthcare for poor Brooklynites and provide for the continued existence of LICH as a “downsized” healthcare facility.
One bill, introduced by state Senators Eric Adams and Kevin Parker, would fund a "Brooklyn health trust" with money “equal to the proceeds derived from the sale” of the 18 LICH properties.
The purpose of the Brooklyn health trust, according to Bill S5741-2013, “shall be to provide ambulatory health care to low and moderate income residents, the elderly frail and disabled persons of the County of Kings.” The trust “would assume the non-educational components of SUNY Downstate Medical Hospital.” Brooklyn’s Borough President would serve as chair, and would appoint ten members of the 15-person unpaid board.
Under the bill, a “Brooklyn Health Commission” would also be established to study the health needs of Brooklyn residents and “guide the trust with regard to ambulatory services delivery.” This commission would be funded with a million dollars derived from the sale of LICH property.
"The Brooklyn Health Care Trust would ensure that resources and assets intended for all Brooklynites -- the insured, underinsured and uninsured -- remain in Brooklyn, and under the control of Brooklyn stakeholders,” Senator Adams told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday. “This bill is also a wake up call to the powers that be, letting them know that we will fight back if they intend to gut LICH as an incentive to achieve their wrongheaded goal of privatization."
A different bill, introduced by Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Kevin Parker would require SUNY Downstate to develop “up to four decentralized, freestanding primary and ambulatory care satellites” if the LICH real estate, said to be worth more than half a billion dollars, were to be sold.
According to Bill S5906-2013, “Funding for these satellites is anticipated from monetizing the net asset value of real estate acquired with the Long Island College Hospital while still operating Long Island College Hospital as a health care facility.” This arrangement could involve the State Division of Budget leasing all or some of the LICH property or establishing a real estate investment trust, with the assets used to continue inpatient and outpatient health services. The funds derived from this process would retire the liabilities of LICH and provide start-up funding for the “satellites.”
This bill directs that “two thirds of the net asset value of the Long Island College Hospital real estate will be devoted to subsidy of SUNY Downstate Hospital and Long Island College Hospitals' operations during a three year transition and development period.” On June 21 the bill was referred to the Rules committee.
A matching bill, A08066, is in the Assembly. Sponsors include Nick Perry, Joseph Lentol, James Brennan, Charles Barron, Walter Mosley, Karim Camara, Joan Millman, William Colton, Annette Robinson, Rhoda Jacobs, Steven Cymbrowitz, Alan Maisel, Peter Abbate, Rafael Espinal and Alec Brook-Krasny. This bill was referred to the Ways and Means committee.
Assemblyman Perry told the Brooklyn Eagle that the viability of SUNY Downstate is “integral to Brooklyn’s healthcare infrastructure.”
“With this being the case, my legislation A.8066 would strengthen the long-term viability of Downstate while assuring its sustained operation. Central Brooklyn in particular, with its already high unemployment rate, and history of being medically underserved would be devastated by the loss, or even downsizing of this medical institution. My bill also provides for the continued existence of LICH as a downsized, healthcare facility, while providing a pragmatic alternative to other plans which would simply allow LICH to shut down, pack up and leave Cobble Hill. Closing LICH without adequately addressing the healthcare needs of the community which now depends on it, could literally become a life or death situation for the community.”
SUNY Downstate spokesperson Bob Bellafiore said on Tuesday that Downstate had no comment about these bills.
Assemblyperson Joan Millman, a sponsor of A08066 along with Perry, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday, “At least we’ll have something in place to move ahead,” if LICH is sold. “It’s a failsafe, a placeholder, in case we go back to the Governor.”