Long Island College Hospital (LICH) medical staff is reporting being told by administrators that the hospital, located at 339 Hicks Street in Cobble Hill, will be stripped of its equipment and patients this weekend (July 20-21) and that the last day of surgery is Friday, July 19.
If true, such an action would be in violation of state and borough Supreme Court orders to halt any closure of or reduction in services at the 156-year-old hospital, which is owned and operated by the State University of New York (SUNY) and SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
However, SUNY Downstate spokesperson Robert J. Bellafiore called the rumors “patently false statements,” and stated that “the hospital is not closing this weekend” as “no hospital in New York State can close without the approval of the Department of Health.”
According to Eliza Bates, spokesperson for the NYS Nurses Association, “SUNY Downstate management is going to all floors of the hospital, telling nurses that patients need to be moved out by tomorrow. Social workers are trying to find spaces [in neighboring hospitals] to move them and the patients include a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit whose mother has said clearly she doesn’t want baby moved.”
Bates added that “this is pretty clearly in contempt of the restraining order telling them that they cannot close the hospital.
“It looks like they are trying to padlock the hospital by Monday. The Operating Room has been informed that all surgeries scheduled after Monday need to be transferred to SUNY Downstate or at [Downstate’s urgent care center at] Bay Ridge, and there are no outpatient services.”
Also of concern is the fact that New York City is in the middle of a heat wave, said NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo, who spoke to this publication as she was on her way to LICH.
“We want to find out what’s going on and who is ordering [staff to prepare to close],” said Furillo. “We think patients are at risk in Brooklyn. This is the worst heat wave in 20 years in the city and ambulances are being taken away with people with heat related diseases. . . This is the worst time ever to be closing down that hospital which needs to be open for patients.”
According to Bellafiore of SUNY Downstate, “SUNY is not selling or moving any equipment. Transfer of patients to other facilities with their consent has been ongoing and there are currently only 18 patients in the hospital and elective surgeries are being rescheduled at different locations. Moreover, SUNY is not in violation of any court order whatsoever. The Temporary Restraining Order has been stayed by appeal.”
The emotional and contentious debate continues, however.
At an emergency press conference at 1:30 p.m. in front of LICH on Thursday, July 18, elected officials — State Senator Daniel Squadron, Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assemblymember Joan Millman, Councilmember Brad Lander and Councilmember Stephen Levin — decried the rumored move and declared that “it’s time for an independent overseer for LICH, which the state and the court must insist on.”
Councilmember Stephen Levin chimed in, noting that “SUNY is not above the law [and] if they attempt to shutter Long Island College Hospital this weekend, as reports show, they will be doing so illegally.”
Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio also responded, stating that “This community has been lied to. At the same time SUNY and Governor [Andrew Cuomo] promised everything possible was being done to save LICH, they were preparing to sell it off to the highest bidder. SUNY is violating a court order to keep this hospital open, and we won’t let it stand. The same luxury condos being put up over St. Vincent’s will soon rise over LICH if we don’t stop this in its tracks.”
Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn said that SUNY Downstate’s “decision to remove all remaining patients creates a chaotic and unsafe environment, particularly when ambulances were already being diverted from other Brooklyn hospitals earlier this week. Preserving access to vital health care – especially in the middle of a dangerous heat wave – is essential. We demand that LICH keep its doors open as stipulated by law.”
We’ll update as more information becomes available.