In response to the virtual closing of Long Island College Hospital’s (LICH) core departments and services, including the emergency room, cardiac care unit and overnight pediatric care department, by hospital-owner SUNY Downstate, Brooklyn families and LICH staff took to the streets both here and in Manhattan to protest what they say is the systematic “failing [of] our neighborhoods” by SUNY administrators and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In one of the most dramatic protests, on Wednesday, July 10, hundreds gathered outside SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s office at West 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, armed with piles of signed petitions in support of LICH.
The NYPD was called and 15 people were arrested—including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Councilmember Stephen Levin, and NYS Nurses Association President Elect Judy Gonzales and Executive Director Jill Furillo.
In addition to NYSNA, protesting groups include Concerned Physicians of LICH, Parents for LICH, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers, New York Communities for Change, and the Working Families Party – South Brooklyn Club.
As well as calling for the protection of LICH, the protestors also marched in support of Interfaith Medical Center, which also faces closure.
Protestors are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to intercede in the dismantling of the struggling Brooklyn hospital system. New York State and Brooklyn Supreme Court judges have already ordered a halt to the closure of LICH facilities, but the orders are currently stalled as a result of SUNY Downstate’s legal appeals of the rulings.
Some patients have taken to another form of protest: refusing to be turned away or transferred to other Brooklyn hospitals.
The Cobble Hill Association cites a “concerned staffer’s” anecdote about how a LICH neighbor came into the ER for medical attention and was told that he would be transferred somewhere else.
“This guy was smart,” the association’s blog reads. “He refused transfer, saying that his doctor & records are here & LICH is his hospital, it’s open, staffed, and there’s no “closed” sign on the door. He insisted on being admitted to LICH or he would take legal action. Guess what? He was the first patient to be admitted to LICH since June 19.”
Dialysis and maternity patients are also reportedly refusing to be transferred to other hospitals, such as New York Methodist in Park Slope and Brooklyn Hospital in Fort Greene.
For its part, Methodist’s ER is reportedly receiving more visits than usual since the June 19 closure of LICH’s ER.
SUNY Downstate’s council will be holding a meeting at noon on Monday, July 15, at the hospital at 395 Lenox Road. The agenda includes an update on and proposed implementation of the council’s Sustainability Plan for Downstate Medical Center. The agenda will be available online at www.downstate.edu.