By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A state judge on Wednesday ordered SUNY Downstate to maintain staffing levels at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) after hearing complaints that SUNY intended to pull out crucial residents this weekend.
But the order may not have come in time to stop SUNY from shutting down LICH’s emergency room. (An update to this story can be found here.)
Attorneys for Concerned Physicians of LICH, NYS Nurses Association and Local 1199 “made a persuasive argument about SUNY [Downstate’s] violations of the previous temporary restraining order (TRO) issued,” Dr. Toomas M. Sorra, spokesperson for Concerned Physicians of LICH, told the Brooklyn Eagle via email late Wednesday.
Judge Johnny Lee Baynes “set a hearing for contempt and obliged SUNY Downstate to maintain staffing levels as they were in February 2013,” Dr. Sorra said.
In spite of the court order to maintain staff levels, SUNY Downstate notified doctors that the LICH emergency room would stop accepting ambulance patients effective June 20, at 6 a.m.
Paradoxically, SUNY Downstate said the move was necessary because LICH was short on staff. “Due to the departure of critical staff that cannot be replaced in a timely manner, we are taking steps to ensure patient health, safety, and welfare,” SUNY Downstate said in a letter to LICH doctors obtained by the Brooklyn Eagle.
SUNY said that “FDNY – EMS has been notified that the UHB Long Island College Hospital campus of SUNY Downstate will be on ambulance diversion for emergency room services . . . Patients using the EMS ambulance services will be taken to the nearest hospital with appropriate resources. Hospitals in Brooklyn have been notified of the diversion.”
Dr. Sorra said that the idea that LICH was shorthanded was false. “This is a blatant lie! There is no unsafe situation,” he said, calling SUNY Downstate’s repeated attempts to shut down LICH “criminal.”
According to SUNY Downstate, seven organizations have expressed interest in taking over LICH, including a for-profit entity. SUNY has not disclosed their identities or provided financial information to interested parties.
Supporters of LICH and other endangered Brooklyn hospitals including Interfaith rallied on Wednesday to protest a Senate bill that would create five pilot projects allowing private equity firms to invest in hospitals in New York State for the first time.
“Healthcare advocates are calling on a moratorium on all Brooklyn hospital closures. . . and a commitment from our elected leaders to put patient care before corporate profits,” the NYS Nurses Association said in a statement.
More later on this developing story.