LICH to remain open, for now
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Tuesday that Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes has scheduled a hearing for next Monday to consider holding SUNY Downstate Medical Center in contempt for violating an order keeping Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in operation.
Justice Baynes also referred the case to the Brooklyn District Attorney to investigate, de Blasio said.
“When a state court judge refers a case to the Brooklyn DA, it suggests the level of danger SUNY is putting patients in,” de Blasio said. The DA could consider criminal charges related to denying or obstructing medical care at the Cobble Hill hospital.
PIX11 reports that the State Attorney General’s office has initiated a separate investigation.
De Blasio told reporters that he was “appalled and shocked” that Mayor Bloomberg “has refused to comment on the fact that two major hospitals” may close in Brooklyn.
Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which was close to a merger with Brooklyn Hospital Center, is now teetering on the edge of closure.
“Our mayor believes in a Darwinian theory of healthcare,” de Blasio added.
The latest of many rallies, this one mourning the “death of healthcare in Brooklyn”, is scheduled to take off from Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Marchers will head over the bridge to City Hall carrying caskets and tombstones.
By law, hospitals in New York City must provide emergency care and treatment to all persons who need it who arrive at the entrance to the hospital.
LICH medical staff said that Downstate prevented them from treating patients, shut down departments and transferred patients from LICH over the weekend in violation of the restraining order.
The order was modified by the Appellate Division to require that SUNY Downstate maintain the level of service at LICH that was provided at the hospital as of 4 p.m. on Friday.
LICH staff said they spent the weekend battling SUNY’s attempts to transfer patients out of the hospital.
Dr. Robert Levey submitted an affidavit testifying that he was instructed on Saturday by SUNY Downstate’s Chair of Medicine, Dr. Moro Salifu, to transfer ten LICH patients to another hospital. Levey, however, refused because “it was not medically appropriate.”
Dr. Alice Garner testified that administrative staff attempted to transfer five of these patients anyway, against her and Dr. Levey’s medical judgement. A third LICH physician called the NYPD, who interceded, according to the doctors.
Another LICH staff member submitted an affidavit testifying that patients who walk up to the LICH ER seeking care have been told by security that LICH is closed. Ambulances to LICH remain on diversion.
“The ER rooms in Brooklyn are overflowing,” de Blasio said. “If you’re minutes away from death and your own mayor won’t lift a finger to help you, that’s disturbing.”
SUNY said that no attempts had been made to move patients over the weekend. The Brooklyn Eagle, however, photographed an elderly patient being wheeled on a stretcher outside the hospital on Saturday afternoon. It was not clear where she was being transported.
LICH doctors are waiting to see if SUNY obeys the modified TRO. The “GI (gastrointestinal) Lab and Outpatient Surgery should be restored according to today's Court decision,” Concerned Physicians of LICH said in a statement Tuesday.
While the state Department of Health last week approved SUNY’s plan to close LICH, Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, leading de Blasio’s legal team, said on Monday that DOH acted illegally by approving the plan before the required 90-day waiting period was over. Additionally, a plan to safeguard and make accessible patients’ medical records has not been submitted, as is required by law.