By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In an attempt to snag the attention of a curiously silent Governor Andrew Cuomo, supporters of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) have been holding rallies on a regular basis since financially troubled SUNY Downstate announced its intention to shut the Cobble Hill hospital down.
Babies in strollers have been marched down Court Street, where shop windows are plastered with signs asking, “Where’s Cuomo?” State Senators, Assemblypersons and City Council members – bullhorns in hand -- have led marches down Hicks Street; and doctors, nurses and staff have held numerous rallies across Brooklyn and in Albany.
In spite of a court order to keep LICH staff levels up, Downstate has closed down LICH’s intensive care units, maternity and surgical wards and banned ambulances from delivering patients to the ER. The rallies have only increased in frequency and intensity.
At a rally at LICH on Sunday, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio called on Governor Cuomo to intervene on behalf of LICH and another threatened Brooklyn hospital, Interfaith Medical Center.
At still another rally on Monday, LICH supporters were set to travel by buses (supplied by the Brooklyn Heights Association) to Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office to try to convince the Governor to keep the hospital out of the hands of real estate developers.
On Wednesday LICH supporters led by the New York State Nurses Association will again take to buses, this time at 8:15 a.m., to rally and deliver a petition to SUNY Chancellor Zympher to “obey the court order and keep the hospital open at safe staffing levels.”
Yet another stroller rally is planned for Thursday, July 11 at 5:30 p.m. -- and some officials and community members say they are considering getting arrested to show how serious the crisis has become. “Even though the rally/stroller march is kid-friendly, we're very serious,” the group Parents for LICH said in a release. “Governor Cuomo is failing our community. He runs SUNY and the Department of Health -- this is his decision and right now he is endangering our kids and everyone's health by closing LICH.”
While SUNY has transferred all but roughly two dozen patients out of the hospital, nurses say that some patients have resisted the move. According to a nurse at LICH, one patient “absolutely refused to allow himself to be transferred, saying that his doctor and records are here and LICH is his hospital, it's open, staffed, and there’s no ‘closed’ sign on the door. He insisted on being admitted to LICH or he would take legal action… He was the first patient to be admitted to LICH since June 19th.”
The nurse said that many of LICH’s dialysis patients are refusing to go elsewhere for their treatments, and that some maternity patients are calling to say they are coming and will refuse to be transferred. “Yesterday, one of them insisted on being admitted to LICH and had her baby safely delivered.”
At Sunday’s rally, de Blasio invoked the loss of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village and of other now-defunct New York City hospitals, and warned of devastating consequences for residents.
“There are powerful forces working to shutter these hospitals. Some want to make money, others are out to save money. But there is no financial table that can reflect what the loss of these hospitals will mean to Brooklyn,” he said.
SUNY Downstate says it needs to shut LICH for financial reasons.
A merger between Interfaith Medical Center and Brooklyn Hospital Center has come to a standstill pending release of funds from the state, according to Crain's New York.