The turmoil surrounding efforts by the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center to close Long Island College Hospital (LICH) has led to speculation in southwest Brooklyn that SUNY will next take its budget ax to the medical facility it operates in Bay Ridge.
SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge, located at 9036 Seventh Ave., at the site of the former Victory Memorial Hospital, is an urgent care center that SUNY opened after the New York State Department of Health ordered the closure of the hospital five years ago. Like LICH, which loses a reported $15 million a month, Victory Memorial Hospital was hemorrhaging money, according to officials. When it closed in 2008, it had amassed nearly $100 million in debt.
SUNY Downstate got permission from the Dept. of Health to reconfigure the Victory site as an urgent care center, a type of medical clinic that treats walk-in patients with non-emergency conditions. An urgent care center is a step removed from an emergency room, where doctors treat everything from gunshot victims to patients having heart attacks.
Now that SUNY is looking to cut costs, will it seek to close its Bay Ridge facility to save money? “I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to close it. They have a good excuse. I don’t think that many people go there anyway,” one Bay Ridge civic activist said.
The facility is virtually unknown, local elected officials admitted. At several community meetings in and around Bay Ridge, lawmakers have urged residents to make use of the center.
But Ronald Najman, communications director for SUNY Downstate, denied that the facility is in any danger. “First, there are no plans to close SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge,” Najman wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Najman wrote that the Seventh Avenue location not only serves as an urgent care center, but also contains an ambulatory surgery center, an advanced endoscopy center, and a laser vision correction center
“The urgent care center at SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge is staffed with emergency medicine physicians who can take care of patients seeking immediate healthcare services such as symptoms of a cold or the flu, a cough, a cut that needs stitches, a minor burn, a sprained wrist or ankle, anything that is not a true emergency,” Najman wrote.
“True emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, require the services available at a hospital emergency room. Patients who come to the urgent care center who require serious care, like those with chest pains, will be stabilized and transported to a hospital,” he wrote.
The center can take the burden of treating non-life threatening cases away from hospital emergency rooms, according to Najman. “But as we say on the Downstate at Bay Ridge website, if you go to an emergency room for life's small emergencies, the wait can be long, and the stress high. At the urgent care center at SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge, we can get you the care you need – fast,” Najman promised.
Meanwhile, the fate of LICH, which is located in Cobble Hill, is hanging in the balance. As the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported, SUNY was seeking to close the hospital by July, but Public Advocate Bill de Blasio went to court and obtained a temporary restraining order to keep the doors open.
Keep checking back with www.brooklyneagle.com for the latest news on the LICH situation.