Hundreds rally in Cobble Hill demanding 'Save LICH!'

Elected officials, nurses and local residents chanting “Save LICH!” rallied in the freezing cold on Friday morning in front of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Protesters demanded that the State University of New York (SUNY) develop a plan to keep the hospital – teetering on the brink -- open.

Calling LICH and SUNY Downstate’s other affiliates “vital to Brooklyn’s already-underserved residents” the officials said talk of closing was “unacceptable.”

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Joan Millman, Councilmembers Stephen Levin, representatives of BP Marty Markowitz and many others rallied the crowd of roughly 200.

Photo courtesy of the Office of the Borough President
“SUNY must develop a stabilization plan that provides a long-term solution for the hospitals and Brooklyn,” Senator Squadron said.

LICH is a “safety net hospital” that needs to stay open, George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU health care workers union said. “All other options should be thoroughly explored and exhausted before even considering the possibility of closure, especially since the Medicaid Redesign Team recommended that LICH stay open.”

Along with the rally, representatives from across Brooklyn fired off letters to SUNY officials demanding that a solution be developed to preserve health care for Downtown Brooklyn.

In a statement, Democratic mayoral candidate and former City Councilman Sal Albanese also voiced his support for keeping LICH open. “This is outrageous. LICH is an essential institution for so many people, not to mention the closet medical facility to the Barclay's Center,” he said in a statement. “Huge swaths of our city are becoming primary care deserts.”

David Doyle, spokesman for SUNY chairman Carl McCall, has confirmed that SUNY trustees have discussed closing LICH “in the near future.”

Assemblywomen Joan Millman, who sits on the LICH Advisory Board, told the Eagle last weekend the news was “a real shock.”

“From December of last year to January of this year, 11,000 people were served in the ER. Where are these people going to go?”

She added, “1,900 people work at LICH. Closing the hospital would have a devastating effect on the local economy.”

On Thursday, longtime nurses at LICH told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle they were distressed by the hospital's possibly imminent closing. Joan Rowley, a critical-care nurse who has worked for the hospital for 37 years, says there has been a “downward fall” in morale at the hospital. “We work with less and do more,” she said, adding that management has not talked to the nurses themselves about the problem.

LICH is operated by SUNY Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush.  SUNY took over after LICH was abandoned by Continuum Health Partners in 2011. Many in Brooklyn are still bitter after LICH’s “merger” with Continuum left it stripped of assets, including valuable real estate. Continuum has been accused of steering patients to the network’s Manhattan hospitals, such as Beth Israel.

A report from state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli issued January 17 confirmed that SUNY Downstate is “hemorrhaging millions of dollars every week.” The report called Downstate’s acquisition of two hospitals, LICH and Victory Memorial “a major cause of Downstate’s fiscal stress.”

LICH's real estate holdings, however, are said to be worth roughly $100 million.

Protesters chant outside of LICH in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Credit Joanna Prisco, via Carroll Gardens Patch