By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Community groups and organizations of medical professionals on Wednesday both hailed the decision by Kings County Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest granting Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s “motion to intervene” in the case that will determine the next operator of Long Island College Hospital.
Justice Demarest ruled late Tuesday that de Blasio could “participate as a representative of the public interest.” In August, Demarest overturned her own ruling that gave control of LICH to SUNY Downstate, thus setting in motion proceedings to find a new operator.
As an “intervenor,” the Public Advocate’s Office joins six community groups from surrounding neighborhoods -- Boerum Hill Association, Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Cobble Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association, Wyckoff Gardens Association and Riverside Tenants’ Association – which Justice Demarest granted intervenor status in September.
De Blasio and the community groups are all being represented by the firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher. The motion to intervene was filed in August.
Explaining the “intervenor” status, a spokesman for de Blasio said, “We [the Public Advocate’s Office] will be able to take part in conferences, question witnesses, appeal decisions, sign off on any agreement,” although Justice Demarest would have the ultimate authority to select an operator.
Jane McGroarty, vice president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, commented, “The Brooklyn Heights Association is grateful to Justice Demarest for allowing the community and the Public Advocate to be parties to the court proceedings that have resulted from Justice Demarest’s Decision and Order of Aug. 20, 2013 in which the transfer of LICH to SUNY was rendered null and void.
“Long Island College Hospital has been and is a very important institution to the residents of our community and to the other communities in downtown Brooklyn; and we believe LICH should continue its charitable mission of providing healthcare for our communities,” she said.
Howard Kolins, president of the Boerum Hill Association, said, “The Boerum Hill Association is very pleased to receive Judge Demarest’s recognition of all the community groups who are working to preserve public health care services by keeping Long Island College Hospital open.”
Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association, also welcomed the decision. “I think that healthcare throughout the city is an important issue that the city should be involved in,” he said, adding that it is unfortunate that “our current mayor” doesn’t seem to think so.
The spokesman for the Public Advocate’s Office added that de Blasio had discussed the situation with Councilwoman Letitia James, Democratic candidate for public advocate, who pledged to continue the role as intervenor.
Members of medical-related organizations also welcomed the news. Dr. Toomas Sorra, president of the Concerned Physicians of LICH, said, “I think we’ve all been on the same page. His [de Blasio’s] intervention has been welcomed by all concerned in an effort to save LICH as a full-service hospital.”
Dr. Sorra, a gastroenterologist, added that LICH is still “a shell” of its former self, with a small number of patients. “The emergency room is open, but the operating rooms are all closed, the GI [gastro-intestinal] lab is still closed,” he said.
Jill Furillo, RN, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, said in a statement:
“We are pleased that members of the coalition we've built, including the Public Advocate and community groups, will have a voice in court to ensure that LICH continues to meet the healthcare needs of Brooklyn residents. Our coalition of nurses, patients, doctors, caregivers, and elected leaders has kept LICH open for care.
“Our task as nurses is to advocate for our patients and we will continue our fight for vital Brooklyn hospitals in and out of the courtroom. We’ve been calling for a moratorium on hospital closures from the beginning.”
Earlier this year, SUNY Downstate, citing fiscal concerns, filed a plan with the state Department of Health to shut down LICH. But after several months of protests, letter-writing campaigns, meetings with state officials and court action, SUNY Downstate withdrew the plan.
Instead, said a spokesman for SUNY Downstate at the time, it “would continue to seek a provider of healthcare services within the LICH community, including potentially a hospital operator.”