Brooklyn hospitals get mixed diagnoses

Brooklyn hospitals continue to be in a state of flux, with some see-sawing between closure and 11th hour court orders to remain open, and others planning expansions of their facilities and programs.

The most high-profile of those struggling are Long Island College Hospital (LICH), Interfaith Medical Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Despite existing orders to continue admitting patients and ambulance service to LICH, its owner, SUNY Downstate, halted both activities again, as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, November 6. The move sparked immediate condemnation by LICH advocates and staff, triggered an emergency afternoon meeting with Brooklyn judge(s) on November 7, and then the reported restoration of Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance service to LICH as of 4 p.m. on November 8.

According to SUNY Director of Communications David Doyle, “Although the situation remains fluid, the chancellor [Nancy Zimpher] has directed the entire [SUNY] system to continue to assist in maintaining a safe environment at the facility.”

Doyle had previously issued a statement explaining the ban on ambulance service as caused by “a shortage of medical specialists.”

Ambulance and patient services were initially suspended in June, but largely restored in September following court orders from Brooklyn Supreme Court Justices Johnny Baynes and Carolyn Demarest.  Doyle noted that this restoration was only partial, and that a restriction on “the most serious medical cases” has existed since September and will continue to remain in effect.

A major factor in the fight over whether to close LICH is the fact that its operator, SUNY Downstate, is struggling financially and wants to reduce its costs by shutting down and selling LICH. That means that SUNY employees and patient services are also in limbo.

Interfaith Medical Center was due to close by November 15, but improper paperwork filings, plus a series of lawsuits and complaints filed by hospital unions, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and the hospital’s foundation, have led to that date being pushed to January 26, 2014, with the closure process to begin on December 26.

In Interfaith’s latest closure plan, filed on November 1, some form of health care services would be retained in the building at 1545 Atlantic Avenue, with the new entity to hire 1199 SEIU union members.

According to Crain’s Health Pulse, proposals have come from 15 interested health care operators, including a “national provider of population health technology and case management workforce,” “a nursing home operator, a national operator of behavioral health hospitals” and a New York City-based social services group that often works with the homeless population.

On the healthier hospital front, Lutheran Medical Center continues to expand its network of family health clinics and programs around the borough.

The 125-plus-year-old New York Methodist also recently unveiled its plans to expand its Park Slope campus, building a nine-story Center for Community Health at 505-525 Sixth Street. The outpatient care facility would include a 12-operating room ambulatory surgery suite, a cancer center, an endoscopy suite and physician offices.

“On a macro scale, we’re fortunate that our hospital is in such great shape that they can make this level of an investment in the community,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Brooklyn Community Board 6. “Hopefully they can continue to serve our community for generations to come.”

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