Fortis says 'No preferential treatment'
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After just five days of negotiations, SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall said on Monday that SUNY was “making good progress” with developer Fortis Property Group’s proposal to buy Long Island College Hospital (LICH).
NYU-Langone Medical Center, one of Fortis' partners, said it plans to offer a "walk-in" ER and a variety of ambulatory health services on the LICH campus. Fortis also promises a Federally Qualified Health Care Center, likely in Red Hook. Lutheran Family Health Centers is also offering clinical services, including a dental clinic, on site,
Community groups and health professionals who have been fighting to preserve the hospital are calling for a survey of the health care needs of the neighborhoods served by LICH before the contracts are finalized. The previous bidder, Peebles, had agreed to this requirement.
But Fortis said in an email obtained by the Brooklyn Eagle that they had already "extensively reviewed and considered what was best for the community" before formulating their proposal.
The needs review may prove a sticking point for many of the participants. The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) has long pointed out that no comprehensive health care needs survey of the rapidly-growing neighborhoods served by LICH -- from Red Hook to Williamsburg, including Downtown Brooklyn -- has ever been carried out.
Nor has a required evaluation of the emergency surge-capacity of northwestern Brooklyn been conducted, despite LICH's historical role in providing backup capacity during disasters such as September 11 and Superstorm Sandy.
"The negotiations with the State University of New York for the purchase of Long Island College Hospital has been fraught with manipulation," said Charlene Nimmons, Resident Association President of Wyckoff Gardens.
Certificate of Need Application Submitted
McCall said that NYU-Langone has already submitted to the state Department of Health (DOH) an application for a Certificate of Need (CON). A CON is a state-mandated review process for health care facilities.
“None of the prior parties who were in negotiation with SUNY took this important step,” McCall said. “It is a tangible action and a clear sign of NYULMC’s intent to provide health care services at the LICH site under its own license in the very near future.”
While none of the other negotiating parties filed for a CON, someone else has -- Prime Healthcare Foundation. Prime, unlike Fortis, is proposing to operate a full-service hospital at the site. Prime came in fourth in SUNY's much-disputed Request for Proposals (RFP) ranking.
LICH supporters will be in court on Tuesday protesting some of these rankings. Attorney Jim Walden, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, told the Brooklyn Eagle that LICH advocates filed a motion at state Supreme Court on Friday to throw out rankings by six of the hospital bid evaluators.
Supporters say that the six evaluators did not follow instructions to award more points to full-service hospital proposals, the key feature of a landmark legal settlement.
If the six non-compliant rankings were disgarded, Prime would rise in the rankings to second place.
A Fortis spokesperson said the team was negotiating on Monday with Walden.
Walden declined to discuss the topics of these conversations. "As we have made clear to the Court, we welcome all productive discussions to meet the community's dire healthcare needs," Walden told the Eagle. "All such discussions are confidential, by agreement, and we will not publicly comment on progress without direction of the Court."
Fortis denies preferential treatment
Fortis, SUNY's choice to win the bidding for LICH last December before the RFP process was revamped by order of the court, says that the company has received no preferential treatment.
"[We] applied for the CON, but DOH sent it back asking for additional information," a spokesman said. "Now we're working with DOH to get the additional information they asked for." He added, "Nothing's a walk in the park."
According to DOH, on May 19 NYU-Langone submitted an application for the “NYU Freestanding Emergency Department and Urgent Care Center” at 363 Hicks Street in Cobble Hill.
On this same day, Prime Healthcare Foundation submitted an application to establish the "Prime Healthcare - LICH," full-service hospital at the site.
Peebles also claims manipulation
The negotiations with Peebles had crumbled over disagreements over how long SUNY would maintain its license at the site, and over a request by Peebles for a cost-sharing arrangement to cover possible environmental remediation.
A preliminary study found evidence of past fuel spills and other possible contaminants at the 156-year-old site, including coal dust.
According to the RFP, the buyer of the LICH site is responsible for all remediation costs. When Peebles proposed that the state share some of these possible costs, SUNY counted that as one of several grounds for rejection.
According to a source familiar with the negotiations, however, it was SUNY which asked Peebles to propose alternatives to the RFP mandate, after SUNY refused to allow the PHASE II environmental testing, necessary to obtain insurance.
"SUNY created the obstacle to getting the insurance and that they then asked for alternatives outside the RFP,” the source said. “It would indicate that they were seeking to undermine the negotiations and create an excuse to pull the plug.”
Fortis says that they will abide by the terms of the RFP.
SUNY says it will continue to voluntarily provide services at LICH "in a good faith effort to ensure continuity of care."
According to DOH, stakeholders have 20 days from application to comment on a CON application at firstname.lastname@example.org The reviewer criteria include public need, character and competence of the operator, and financial feasibility.