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SUNY ‘reopens’ LICH bidding – but just to those who already bid

The emergency bay at Long Island College Hospital (LICH). Photo: Mary Frost

LICH supporters on RFP: We’ll fight ‘until hell freezes over’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

SUNY announced on Tuesday that it is reopening its Request for Proposals to sell Long Island College Hospital (LICH) -- but only to those bidders who already participated in the initial round.

Those who previously put in a bid will have until February 3 to tweak their offers. No new hospital or health care provider would be allowed to enter the bidding for the historic Cobble Hill hospital.

SUNY said in a release that “reopening” the RFP would “enhance the openness, transparency, and effectiveness of the process,” and that and firms will be asked to make public the terms of the proposals prior to an award.

LICH supporters, however, cried foul.

"By acting unilaterally, SUNY assures one thing: the Community will fight until hell freezes over, and then we will fight it out on the ice,” said attorney Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, representing six community groups and others in the year-long battle to keep LICH open.

Jeff Strabone, spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association, one of the six groups involved in the litigation, said in a statement, “Without consultation or notice, SUNY today issued a press release announcing that the respondents to its rigged RFP process will be given the opportunity to modify their proposals. Make no mistake about it: SUNY has acted unilaterally with no forewarning, let alone consultation, to community stakeholders. They have made this announcement on a night when the nation's and the city's attention will be devoted to President Obama's State of the Union address.”

He added, “SUNY has not reopened its RFP process: it has simply given its favored parties an opportunity to make their condo proposals look less repugnant." (See below for Strabone’s entire statement.)

Jill Furillo, Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association, said in a statement, “NYSNA is committed to preserving vital hospital services at LICH. We think that the decision by SUNY to reopen the RFP process is a step in the right direction but we are concerned that this is not a serious effort to address the needs of our communities.  SUNY is not offering a process with a realistic time frame or one which will afford all potential hospital operators a meaningful opportunity to submit viable proposals that respond to the healthcare needs of the community.” (See below for her entire statement.)

Susan Raboy, spokesperson for Patients for LICH, told the Brooklyn Eagle, “The only transparent part of all of this is that SUNY is running scared. They will be held accountable in court on February 11.”

On July 17, 2013, SUNY issued an RFP “to offer health care services at the Long Island College Hospital (LICH) campus, or in the community proximate to LICH consistent with the health care needs of the community, and to purchase the LICH property, plant, and equipment.”

SUNY spokesperson David Doyle told the Eagle that the original RFP was well publicized and open to all bidders. "The reopening allows bidders to partner with anyone they want. So from day one there was, and there continues to be, ample opportunity for any interested parties."

Advocates for LICH, including patients, unions, and elected representatives, have been demanding a total do over of the RFP process, which they say was shrouded in secrecy and slanted towards real estate developers, as opposed to hospital operators.

Allowing the existing bidders to tweak their proposals would allow developer Fortis Property Group, which plans to build condos on the property, to replace ProHealth medical group with NYU Langone Medical Center for the health services provider fraction of the proposal.

Brooklyn Hospital Center, which itself hopes to develop the property, had protested when SUNY had allowed Fortis to change the health provider to NYU after the RFP process had been completed.

Fortis has proposed building condos on the real estate, while Brooklyn Hospital Center proposes rentals. Both said they would provide ambulatory medical services as well.

In a letter to all firms that submitted proposals, SUNY said it would allow “additional interested parties” to participate in the evaluation process. “Therefore, you are invited to resubmit your proposal, revised to reflect your final and best offer, which may include additional or substituted collaborators and enhanced health care service and financial terms.”

The letter goes on to say, “SUNY understands that many parties have called for some form of comprehensive health care at the LICH campus, including perhaps an off-campus hospital emergency department and/or a federally qualified health center or other clinic providing substantially the same services for self-pay or low pay patients. In addition, SUNY calls to all proposers’ attention that the Petitioners in the pending litigation have expressed a preference for a full service hospital at that location.”

SUNY said in the letter that proposals will receive higher consideration “to the extent that the proposed purchase price(s) of any parcels of real estate involved in the proposal are in line with or supported by the appraised values of the Property proposed to be purchased.” SUNY said in the letter that appraisals had come in from $228 million to 278 million.

"SUNY and the Board have always advocated for a real solution to the crisis at LICH that benefits the community while allowing SUNY to return to its core academic mission in Brooklyn and across the entire State of New York," said Board Chairman H. Carl McCall.

Brooklyn’s new Borough President Eric Adams said in a release, “I appreciate the decision of Board Chairman McCall and the SUNY trustees to reopen the bidding process for the future of Long Island College Hospital, as well as their explicit instruction that community involvement be included. The goal remains maintaining this institution as a medical facility that fully meets the needs of local residents, all while evaluating, addressing and prioritizing the larger health issues of the surrounding community.”

Adams added, “Additionally, this effort to save Brooklyn’s struggling hospitals, including Interfaith Medical Center, Brookdale Hospital and SUNY Downstate Medical Center, must be supported by our federal government; I join the call of Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio and others in urging the approval of our Medicaid waiver application.”

In June, Adams, at the time a state Senator, introduced a bill that would fund a "Brooklyn health trust" with money “equal to the proceeds derived from the sale” of 18 LICH properties.

_________________________________________________

Statement from Jeff Strabone, Spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association:

Without consultation or notice, SUNY today issued a press release announcing that the respondents to its rigged RFP process will be given the opportunity to modify their proposals. Make no mistake about it: SUNY has acted unilaterally with no forewarning, let alone consultation, to community stakeholders. They have made this announcement on a night when the nation's and the city's attention will be devoted to President Obama's State of the Union address.

SUNY has not reopened its RFP process: it has simply given its favored parties an opportunity to make their condo proposals look less repugnant. We affirm the words of our counsel Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher: "By acting unilaterally, SUNY assures only one thing: the Community will fight until hell freezes over, and then we will fight it out on the ice."

SUNY is still explicitly steering the RFP respondents away from hospitals and towards outcomes that are not hospitals. Witness the parameters suggested by SUNY today in its letter to the RFP respondents:
"some form of comprehensive health care at the LICH campus, including perhaps an off-campus hospital emergency department and/or a federally qualified health center or other clinic providing substantially the same services for self·pay or low pay patients".

Since there were no hospital operators among the respondents in the original rigged process, there will be none now.

How can the process be called "reopened" when SUNY narrows the scope of acceptable responses and utterly disregards community input?

The six community groups, with the support of our elected officials, submitted a proposal for a reformed RFP process to SUNY. Despite negotiations, SUNY has chosen to ignore our good faith offer and has acted in bad faith by releasing its unilateral plan to the press before the community and the elected officials.

There is only one word for SUNY's actions today: contempt.

_________________________________________________

Statement by Jill Furillo, RN, NYSNA Executive Director:

The patients that LICH serves have been clear that they want a full service hospital and, as nurses, it is our duty to advocate in the best interest of our patients.  NYSNA is committed to preserving vital hospital services at LICH. We think that the decision by SUNY to reopen the RFP process is a step in the right direction but we are concerned that this is not a serious effort to address the needs of our communities.  SUNY is not offering a process with a realistic time frame or one which will afford all potential hospital operators a meaningful opportunity to submit viable proposals that respond to the healthcare needs of the community. We need a truly transparent process  and a serious effort by SUNY to work with the community find a viable solution to the healthcare crisis in Brooklyn. That's what Brooklyn patients need and deserve, and that's what we expect SUNY to offer.

January 28, 2014 - 8:58pm


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