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SUNY Downstate contempt hearing on hold; potential LICH operator rumored

On Friday, Santa (LICH nurse Loreto Gasmen) and his merry elves (Councilmen Brad Lander and Stephen Levin) joined the fight to keep Long Island College Hospital open in Brooklyn. Photos: Mary Frost

Santa and elves draw up list of LICH 'naughty' and 'nice'

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The much-anticipated contempt proceedings against SUNY and the state Department of Health, scheduled to take place before state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes on Monday, December 12, have been put on hold until January 21.

Groups supporting Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill said they delayed the contempt hearing to “let the process play out a bit more.” in light of a bit of progress being made.

In an open letter to the community, (posted in its entirety below) Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, representing the petitioners in the legal battle against SUNY, said, “This is a difficult decision, since all the people affected by SUNY’s wrongful and illegal actions deserve justice. As much as all the petitioners’ lawyers are hoping to have that justice delivered, we believe the legal victories to date have elevated decision-making within SUNY. It seems that cooler heads are using more mature judgement.”

Walden promised, however, “We will not hesitate to act if the situation deteriorates again, as it has in the past.”

Rumors have been flying that SUNY is close to announcing the outcome of the search for a new operator for LICH, and local stakeholders fear the operator chosen will have no interest in keeping LICH open as a full-service hospital. (SUNY did not respond to a request for information by press time.)

LICH supporters are ready to fight SUNY’s choice if it doesn’t take the needs of the community into account, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) spokesperson Eliza Bates said Friday.

While the RFP (Request For Proposals) may be awarded, she said, it doesn’t mean that it’s a done deal.

“There needs to be an independent process to identify other operators, and it needs to be monitored by folks other than those whose goal is to close the hospital,” she said. “Rather than work with the community, SUNY has repeatedly tried to close the hospital and has operated in bad faith.”

Attorney Walden said, “If SUNY selects a party for the RFP award, it is not the end of the RFP process:  they still need a period of time to actually negotiate a contract.  During that time, we will explore every possible legal option, including the viability of a new lawsuit on everyone’s behalf to block the contract.”

Even Santa and his merry elves joined the legal battle to keep Long Island College Hospital open.

On Friday, hundreds of thankful LICH supporters gathered outside with elected officials for a holiday show by the “LICH Players” complete with a visit from Santa and the elves. Elf “Winkelry” was gamely played by City Councilman Brad Lander, and elf “Leroy” was enacted by Councilman Stephen Levin.

“The stress of fighting the hospital closing has led me to drink too much eggnog,” elf Winkelry moaned.

Elf Leroy said, “We elected a mayor so committed to healthcare he landed in the clink!”

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who was the first of many elected officials arrested for the LICH cause, had hoped to attend Friday’s show but was called away to Washington to meet with President Obama instead.

Lander and Levin, along with Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Joan Millman and a long list of advocates were honored for their roles in the fight to save LICH.

Santa, played by LICH nurse Loreto Gasmen, compiled --with the help of Jalesa of the Red Hook Initiative -- a list of the "naughty" and the "nice." The naughty list was topped by Governor Andrew Cuomo, followed by the SUNY board of trustees, Stephen Berger, the state Department of Health, and Mayor Bloomberg.

The nice list included de Blasio, state Supreme Court Justices Baynes and Demarest, elected officials, Patients for LICH, NYSNA, 1199SEIU, six community groups participating in the lawsuits, the attorneys for those groups, Red Hook Initiative, the local press and 15,000 people who signed – by hand – a petition to save LICH.

When the petition was unfurled on the sidewalk outside the hospital, it stretched almost an entire block in length.

Parties to the 30-day standstill agreement include SUNY Downstate, the SUNY Board of Truestees and the state Department of Health, and LICH supporters including six community groups, NYSNA, 1199SEIU, Concerned Physicians of LICH and patients.

SUNY did not respond to a request for information by press time.

Check back for updates.

________________________________________________________________

December 13, 2013

Open Letter to the LICH Community

Dear all:

I have received literally dozens of calls and emails from many folks concerned about LICH, including about rumors that SUNY will soon award an “irrevocable” contract to one of the parties who responded to the Request for Proposal (“RFP”).  I want to reassure you of three things.

- First, all of the Petitioners in the legal actions against SUNY and the Department of Health — the Public Advocate, the many community groups, Concerned Physicians, the New York State Nurses Association, and 1199 SEIU  — are working very hard to make sure we keep medical services at LICH.

- Second, if SUNY selects a party for the RFP award, it is NOT the end of the RFP process:  they still need a period of time to actually negotiate a contract.  During that time, we will explore every possible legal option, including the viability of a new lawsuit on everyone’s behalf to block the contract.

- Third, any deal to transfer the hospital will STILL REQUIRE approval from Justice Carolyn Demarest.  So, no matter what, the case has to go back to court.  

As you know, we have delayed the contempt hearing to let the process play out a bit more.  This was a difficult decision, since all the people affected by SUNY’s wrongful and illegal actions deserve justice.  As much as all the Petitioners’ lawyers are hoping to have that justice delivered, we believe the legal victories to date have elevated decision-making within SUNY.  It seems that cooler heads are using more mature judgment.  We are hopeful SUNY’s actions, and their negotiations, will be marked by good faith in the coming weeks.  We are seeing the first hopeful signs.  But  — I promise you  — we will not hesitate to act if the situation again deteriorates, as we have in the past.

If a settlement does not occur, the contempt hearing is rescheduled before Justice Johnny Lee Baynes for January 21, 2014.

Happy holidays,

Jim Walden
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

December 13, 2013 - 5:48pm


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