LICH, Brooklyn Hospital Center ERs closed to ambulances, delays spread
By Mary Frost and Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The emergency room crisis in Brooklyn expanded as high temperatures knocked out Brooklyn Hospital Center’s ER Monday afternoon. Combined with a controversial ambulance ban imposed on Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill by its parent institution, SUNY Downstate, the diversion took out most of the emergency capacity in northwestern and Downtown Brooklyn and in Fort Greene.
FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer told the Brooklyn Eagle that “Brooklyn Hospital is on diversion due to a heat issue and by the request of the hospital. During periods of extreme heat, call volume increases, as do the number of patients brought to hospitals.”
A harried doctor in Brooklyn Hospital Center’s ER told the Eagle on Tuesday that there was a problem with the air conditioning.
Ambulances were stacked outside the ambulance deck at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope all day Tuesday. “We've seen an increase of about 10 percent in ER volume,” said Lyn S. Hill, Methodist spokesperson. “We are very busy, but managing to deal with the increase," she said.
“There are more ambulances coming to our ER,” she added. “Since the ambulance deck cannot always accommodate all of them, at times they are backing up behind the ambulance deck ramp, onto the street behind it.”
“It’s a mess,” a paramedic bringing a patient to Methodist told the Eagle on Tuesday. “When you close two hospitals it’s a mess. What if they have to divert from this one? It might get to the point where we have to send people to Manhattan.”
“Of course it’s dangerous,” said EMT Herby Dossous. “As it is, already we’re overworked. You close two ER’s and it’s dangerous.”
After a city council intern fainted in the heat Tuesday morning in Williamsburg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn lost her patience after waiting about 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and called NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly for help. Quinn called the delay "inexcusable,” according to the New York Daily News.
"How long [would it take] an ambulance to get anywhere else where there aren't television [cameras] and aren't two elected officials?" she asked.
Doctors and nurses at LICH say it doesn’t have to be this way. “If you need a hospital, walk into LICH on your own,” one nurse suggested. Even though ambulances are not allowed to take you there, “you will be treated with literally no wait,” she said.
Despite a court restraining order, Downstate is continuing to dismantle LICH, barring ambulances from LICH's emergency room, closing core departments and prohibiting new admissions.
Last week, 18 people were arrested at rallies protesting LICH’s closure, including nurses, hospital staff, City Council Member Stephen Levin, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Assemblywoman Joan Millman.
While Downstate says it can't afford to keep LICH open, de Blasio and other LICH supporters have charged that the closure of the hospital is “a big real estate deal” for SUNY, which would stand to make up to $1 billion from the sale of the property.
In 2012, LICH's emergency room saw 58,570 patients and admitted over 11,000. LICH’s service area includes Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill and related areas like the BQE and Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Scores of LICH supporters and staff took buses to Albany on Tuesday to put pressure on SUNY’s board of trustees during a meeting there to discuss Downstate’s “sustainability.”
Interestingly, LICH was recently ranked the second-best hospital in Brooklyn and the 30th-best hospital in the New York City area by US News and World Report and is considered “high-performing” in five specialties. In the 2012-2013 survey, 69 LICH physicians were ranked as being among the best in the nation.