To capture the attention of Governor Andrew Cuomo, supporters of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) – located in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn -- plan a “Black Tie” rally to take place outside the Governor’s Spring Gala at the Plaza Hotel Tuesday evening (June 25) at 5:30 p.m.
It may be hard to tell the difference between the LICH supporters and those attending the Governor’s glittery campaign fundraiser – which features a performance by music legend Paul Simon and top chair tickets priced at $50,000.
Both will be dressed for the occasion, with ball gowns and cocktail dresses for the ladies and suits – maybe even tuxes -- for the men.
The LICH supporters, however, will be bringing a few additional ingredients, say the organizers: signs (lots of them) and attitude.
Health advocates say it strains belief that the Governor is not aware of the chaos taking place in emergency rooms across Brooklyn since Thursday, when SUNY Downstate pulled the plug on critical care wards at LICH and banned ambulances from bringing patients into the ER.
SUNY Downstate is taking this course in spite of a court order requiring it to keep staffing levels up at LICH, a situation leading Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes to say last Wednesday that he might go so far as to appoint a special administrator to oversee LICH.
“The Black Tie rally seems to be a perfect way to get Governor Cuomo’s attention,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Trudy Wassner. “We -- a community of neighbors, people who use the hospital, as well as nurses, technicians, and doctors – have been trying to get Governor Cuomo’s attention for months by writing letters, signing petitions, attending rallies – even the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to recommend that LICH be kept open as a full service hospital.
Wasser said that while SUNY “made a public announcement that they would rescind their plans to close LICH,” they’ve since done “everything possible to turn it instead into a shell by gutting it from the inside with actions such as stopping LICH’s residency program and trying to remove patients.”
SUNY Downstate maintains they had to close the ER, psychiatric and critical care areas of LICH because of a critical shortage of staff, a situation compounded by SUNY’s elimination of the residency program at LICH.
Local representatives like state Senator Daniel Squadron and City Councilwoman Letitia James have reported that ER rooms in other Brooklyn hospitals are jammed, with wait times up to 48 hours. According to James, due to overcrowding, fistfights broke out in the ER at Brooklyn Hospital on Friday.
“There is an emergency healthcare crisis in Brooklyn because SUNY has banned ambulances from bringing patients to LICH,” Wasser said. “The situation is dire. We must get Governor Cuomo to stand up for the hospital that serves this part of Brooklyn.”
LICH's emergency room saw 58,570 patients in 2012 and admitted over 11,000 from Brooklyn neighborhoods from Red Hook to Williamsburg, including Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, DUMBO and Boerum Hill.
Those who want to attend the Black Tie rally should meet at the fountain in front of the Plaza, organizers say.