Patients, staff: Guards there to intimidate them
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Patients and staff at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill say that security guards are harassing them as they arrive for their appointments or try to go about their work at the hospital.
The guards, both armed and unarmed, are part of a massive security presence put in place by SUNY Downstate as they try to shut down the hospital in the face of vehement community opposition and legal stays. Financially troubled Downstate acquired LICH roughly two years ago.
“Inside the hospital LICH has been a police state,” one long time nurse told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Armed state university police patrol the halls. A dozen of them were lined up outside a conference room monitoring the actions of nurses who were taking an accredited continuing education class on, of all things, Workplace Violence.”
She recalled when LICH was filled with victims and first responders after terrorist planes flew into the World Trade Center. “We didn't even have this many guards right after 9/11!” she said.
New locks have been installed on inner and outer doors, employees bags and purses are searched upon entering and exiting the building, and doctors and nurses say they were locked inside the hospital over two weekends, only allowed to leave after a guard opened a door with a key.
The purpose of the guards is to intimidate patients and staff, claims Dr. Alice Garner, clinical leader of the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at LICH, who oversees the care of infants at the hospital. “There were armed guards inside the Neonatal Unit,” she told the Eagle. “What if they dropped one of their guns and it shot a baby?” she said. “We went crazy and yelled at them to get out of there.”
While the armed guards left the infants’ immediate area, Dr. Garner said they were still posted outside the unit. “They’ve got guns. We’re afraid of them,” she said.
Dr. Garner said patients and staff had to ask permission to enter or leave the hospital over the weekends of July 20 and July 27. “For two weekends in a row they used Gestapo tactics. They were trying to move patients out” against doctors’ orders, she said. “I called the police to stop them from moving the patients.
“They’ve been intimidating people all kinds of ways,” she said. “They tried to dangle my job in front of me. I know my work, I’m not afraid of that. But they’ve been harassing my colleagues, and they’re afraid.”
As Dr. Garner spoke to the Eagle, security guards rummaged through her purse.
Patients are harassed in other ways. The main hospital entrance – a slowly-revolving automatic door large enough to accommodate wheelchairs – has been locked since late July and labeled “out of order,” preventing wheelchairs from entering the hospital.
Despite a nearby wheelchair ramp, disabled patients are required to climb a flight of steps and walk through two doors to get inside the hospital.
Trudy Wassner, a Brooklyn Heights resident who says she has “often used the hospital and depends on it,” told the Eagle via email that the main hospital door remained locked on Monday. “Patients, no matter what state they were in, have to go through two regular doors,” she said.
“I saw an elderly lady who was pushing a walker (she had just been given dialysis treatment) try to struggle to open one of the doors as the SUNY guards just stood there watching. I grabbed the doors for her and helped her out. I asked her about the guards and she said they never help,” she said.
This reporter observed hospital administrators take no action as a disabled elderly woman was unable to climb the steps. Two passersby finally aided her into the hospital.
On Tuesday, a commenter named Martine tweeted, “Women are being intimidated by hospital security at LICH trying to enter for a doctor's appointment today. Not cool!”
Patients were advised to call 911 to report harassment.
Besides SUNY police, guards have been hired from Summit Security, CSC (Command Security Corporation) Security and, according to one CSC guard, from another company he had never heard of. Many of the guards are new, he said. “I had several applications in. Right after CSC hired me, two more companies called me and offered me a job.”
The demand for security guards is so high that many workers affiliated with Summit don’t even own official ID. Rather, their names are handwritten or typed on pieces of plain paper inserted into plastic covers and pinned to their suit jackets.