The SUNY Board of Trustees voted a second time to close Long Island College Hospital (LICH), which serves the Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights communities.
However, the final hospital closure plan must be approved by the State Department of Health before going into effect.
The vote was held today, March 19, at SUNY Purchase in Westchester – 40 miles away from the hospital in question — following a State Supreme Court judge’s overturning of the previous February 6 vote on the grounds that it violated open meetings laws.
Today’s vote allowed for an hour of testimony from affected parties, who despite living and working miles away, bussed over three busloads of LICH nurses and patients through the rain to speak in defense of the 155-year-old hospital.
“I’ve used LICH and have been living here since 1965.” said Nancy Wolf of Brooklyn Heights. “Our neighborhood is being used as a scapegoat [with claims] that we’re not using the hospital. That is not true. The ER is absolutely crucial. I [took] my child there. I can’t imagine if LICH had not been there.”
According to Maribel Agosto, a nurse at LICH who grew up in the neighborhood, went to the hospital’s School of Nursing and has been working there full time for five years, administrators of SUNY Downstate — which purchased LICH in 2010 and is now calling it a financial drain — have not adequately notified patients, staff and the community about what’s going on.
“Neither patients nor family are aware [about the planned closure]. Every day, my beds are full, over 90 percent. It seems to us that they’re targeting Brooklyn,” Agosto said. “Instead of limiting healthcare, we should be expanding.”
Now that the decision is back to the state Health Department, “we’re going to want to see some strong leadership from the governor on this issue,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager for Community Board 6.
State Senator Daniel Squadron criticized the SUNY Board of Trustee’s decision to hold the vote so far from the communities it affects, calling it “a slap in the face” that demonstrates “a disturbing lack of transparency.”
“But we still made our voices heard — for our community and for Brooklyn [and] LICH remains open and our fight continues,” said Squadron. “It is clear that closing LICH makes no sense. DOH can and must ensure that the needs of our community and all of Brooklyn are met.”