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LICH ER is no longer accepting patients; SUNY Downstate in violation of court order

Following SUNY Downstate’s order yesterday to stop all ambulances and EMS personnel from bringing patients to Long Island College Hospital (LICH) as of 6 a.m. today, Downstate’s John F. Williams has been ordered to appear in court on Monday, July 15, at 2:30 p.m. for violating a restraining order mandating that LICH staffing levels and patient services remain intact until the courts and state health department decide the hospital’s fate.

State Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes issued the restraining order in March and upheld it in April following SUNY Downstate’s attempt to close the 155-year-old community hospital that it purchased in 2011, but soon decided was too expensive to maintain. Downstate recently withdrew the closure plan and proposed an alternate plan that would involve selling LICH to another hospital system, but continued to make cuts to staffing and services.

Justice Baynes has reportedly also scheduled a conference with lawyers from both LICH and SUNY Downstate for Monday, June 24, to review the situation.

As of 6 a.m. this morning, 9-1-1 calls from Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens and parts of Downtown Brooklyn are diverting patients to other borough hospitals in Sunset Park (Lutheran Medical Center), Park Slope (New York Methodist Hospital), and Fort Greene (Brooklyn Hospital Center).

Those hospitals are 15 or more minutes away.

LICH medical staff expressed dismay and outrage at the latest turn of events.

“We are astonished that in the face of a clear order to maintain operations at LICH, Downstate management has issued directives to divert ambulances and transfer patients from LICH,” said Toomas Sorra, MD, President of Concerned Physicians of LICH in a statement. “These directives unnecessarily compromise patient safety. LICH’s Emergency Department is safe, open, fully staffed and ready to receive patients. We implore SUNY management and the Board of Trustees to correct this violation of the court’s order.

Jill Furillo, RN and executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, agreed, saying in a statement that LICH nurses, doctors, and caregivers are continuing to provide the very best care to patients, but SUNY is trying to sabotage our hospital at every turn. . . We’re glad that the Court is taking SUNY’s actions—and the impact these actions could have on Brooklyn patients—very seriously. We will continue to do whatever it takes to keep LICH and all Brooklyn hospitals open for care.”

Community organizations such as the Cobble Hill Association (CHA) also released a video to raise awareness about the fight to save LICH; the commercial is entitled “LICH: Two Minutes To Live.”

UPDATE: 6 p.m.: Dr. Michael Lucchesi, chief medical officer at SUNY Downstate and LICH, issued a statement explaining the decision to close LICH’s ER as resulting from the resignation of key medical and support staff in recent weeks.

“Nothing is more important than preserving care, safety and welfare for every patient who comes through our doors [and] a dire situation is developing at LICH where we have seen voluntary resignations from the hospital’s medical director, Pharmacy Department supervisors, the ER nurse manager, and our Chief Nursing Officer and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, as well as many other attending physicians and key personnel in Information Technology and other essential support areas,” stated Lucchesi. “Thus, ambulances will be diverted from LICH’s Emergency Department by the FDNY and patients from critical care units (ICU and CCU) will be transferred to other hospitals, and for the foreseeable future, no further patients will be admitted to those units.”

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