Editorial: Leaving Brooklyn in the lurch

The vote by the SUNY board to close Long Island College Hospital is both astounding and horrifying.

Unanimously, the members of the board – who are supposed to be concerned about the health and welfare not only of the bottom line but of Brooklyn residents – decided it was time to pull the plug on the struggling medical center, despite an outcry from residents, staffers, elected officials and health care advocates.

Should LICH close – and it’s widely assumed that it will, thanks to the board’s vote – it would leave residents in Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens traveling further for medical care, a particularly problematic turn of events in the case of an emergency.

With LICH shuttered, ambulances that would have headed there will now be diverted farther afield – to Brooklyn Hospital perhaps, forced to battle the congested traffic at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, or in the other direction, to Maimonides Medical Center in Boro Park or Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park, both of which are handling more emergencies than they used to since the closure of Bay Ridge’s Victory Memorial Hospital in 2008.

The same day the SUNY board, gathered in a Manhattan high rise, voted to close LICH — whose financial problems have dragged down Downstate’s fiscal health since the two institutions merged in 2011– the New York State Assembly held a hearing on the health crisis in Brooklyn.

Apparently, they were too busy voting to pay attention to what was going on across the river in Brooklyn Borough Hall, where speakers made it clear that LICH’s closure would be a devastating blow to both those who depend on its services and those who provide them.

Maybe they should have listened. As Borough President Marty Markowitz pointed out, “LICH provides essential medical treatment for thousands of Brooklynites with chronic conditions and those seeking emergency care—without it, they will lose their lifeline.”

There’s still time for SUNY to reconsider. They should. The lives and livelihoods of countless Brooklyn residents depend upon it.

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