Former LICH doctors ‘Want to come back’
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
SUNY Downstate has asked Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest for another week to reopen the Intensive Care Unit, restore full operation of the Emergency Department and restore ambulance service to Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill.
“We’ve asked the judge for more time and are in conversations with the physicians’ group to identify doctors for safe staffing,” SUNY spokesperson Robert Bellafiore told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.
Justice Demarest had ordered on Friday that SUNY Downstate must work with Concerned Physicians of LICH, a group of doctors that has been fighting for years to save the hospital, to restore the above services no later than 3 p.m. on Aug. 26.
“We have to wait and see what the judge says,” Bellafiore added.
As far as bringing ambulance service back, the Chief Medical Officer at LICH would have to call FDNY to take LICH off the diversion list, Bellafiore said.
FDNY spokesperson Frank Dwyer told the Eagle on Monday, “We will resume patient transport to LICH when the hospital is ready to accept patients.”
SUNY banned ambulances from delivering patients to LICH back in June, leading to critical delays and overcrowding in ERs across Brooklyn all summer. While LICH supporters say the ambulance diversion was a part of SUNY's campaign to close LICH, SUNY spokesperson Robert Bellafiore disputes this, citing instead "a large number of resignations of doctors, nursing supervisors and other key medical personnel from its floors." Bellafiore added that SUNY put ambulances to LICH on diversion out of concerns for "patient care and safety."
Julie Semente, a long-time LICH nurse, said staff at the hospital was more than ready to resume operations. “SUNY tried to cripple the hospital by removing our doctors in various ways so they could say we can't allow patients in because ‘there's not enough doctors.’ Well, we do have doctors at LICH and ever since Judge Demarest's order was reported all over the media, more and more former LICH doctors have been calling to say they want to come back. Everybody is excited that SUNY will be out of LICH soon and they're starting to believe that LICH will have a future as a full hospital.”
On Aug. 20, after months of demonstrations by LICH supporters and lawsuits heard before Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, Justice Demarest found that SUNY Downstate Medical Center had violated a contractual obligation to keep LICH open and ordered that LICH assets be transferred back to either Continuum Health Partners or another willing operator.
Continuum said in a statement that they could not reassume management of LICH, but seven other potential operators are said to have expressed interest.
Justice Demarest has delayed SUNY Downstate's transfer of all assets back to LICH until Sept. 6, while critical services are restored.
Updated at 6:15 p.m. with quote from SUNY spokesperson Robert Bellafiore.