SUNY empties ER, critical care wards
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City politicians piled on SUNY Downstate as the state medical center barred ambulances from Long Island College’s (LICH) emergency room and emptied its critical care wards in spite of being ordered by the court to keep the hospital open and staffing levels up.
“SUNY’s decision to reduce staff levels, close the emergency room at Long Island College Hospital and its diversion of ambulance service away from the hospital is a clear violation of Judge Johnny Lee Baynes’ order for staffing levels to be maintained at LICH,” Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Council Member Brad Lander, Council Member Stephen Levin and Assembly Member Joan Millman said in a joint statement.
“SUNY’s actions are a sign that they are actively working to shut down Long Island College Hospital, and by doing so are putting the lives of Brooklynites at risk.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said shutting LICH’s emergency room was outrageous and unsafe. “This action blatantly disregards the court’s ruling that the hospital maintain a full level of service.”
Mayoral hopeful Sal Albanese called on Attorney General Schneiderman to launch an investigation into SUNY's claims regarding staffing and whether its recent actions violate its duties to aid the public. “This decision has thrown emergency services across Brooklyn into disarray and left many people wondering where they can go for help,” he said.
Paramedics told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday that they had orders to deliver patients to either Methodist Hospital in Park Slope or SUNY Downstate’s University Hospital of Brooklyn in East Flatbush, but overflow patients were also being delivered to The Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene and other hospitals.
One EMT told NY1 that a hospital 15 minutes from LICH was so crowded they didn’t have anyone to attend to a possible heart attack victim right away.
Richard B. Becker, MD, president and CEO of The Brooklyn Hospital Center said in a statement Friday afternoon that the hospital had the situation under control. "Our Emergency Department is busier than prior to diversions at LICH, but we are not at capacity and are continuing to provide safe, high quality care to our patients, including those who are arriving in our Emergency Department.”
Financially distressed SUNY Downstate has been trying to close LICH, saying it's losing millions of dollars a year. LICH supporters say that SUNY is after LICH’s valuable real estate.
SUNY says the ER and critical care areas are being closed due to a critical shortage of staff.
“SUNY is not telling the truth about staff levels here. We have not had a mass exodus as they claim,” Maribel Agosto, medical surgical nurse at LICH, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday.
SUNY Downstate spokesperson Robert Bellafiore said late Thursday. “Dozens of doctors have left LICH voluntarily, including the Chief Medical Officer at LICH. They all left on their own. To say this situation is manufactured is a canard.”
Supporters of LICH and their children were set to hold another in a series of rallies at 10 a.m. Saturday. After bringing their charges in stroller to the LICH playground, parents, neighbors and hospital employees planned to march to Brooklyn Borough Hall “to send a message to Governor Cuomo to save LICH, our community hospital.”