Q Activists continue the fight for LICH
Stephon Johnson | 6/27/2013, 12:03 p.m.
Amsterdam News Staff
On Tuesday night, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a spring gala at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. But some Long Island College Hospital (LICH) employees and activists want him to hold the State University of New York (SUNY) accountable for the state of their establishment. From the outside in, despite court orders to halt all closure plans, SUNY's actions are pointing toward the eventual closure of LICH.
Health care advocates in Brooklyn have called for a moratorium on all hospital closures in the borough, but LICH could be headed down that path soon. Last week, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the parent company of LICH, put the kibosh on the hospital's critical care wards and banned ambulances from bringing new patients to the 150-year-old establishment, located in Cobble Hill.
According to SUNY Downstate, closing the emergency room, the critical care and psychiatric wards was necessary because of a shortage in staff. Some have pointed to the elimination of the residency program at LICH as the reason for the shortage of staff.
Last week, Justice Johnny Lee Baynes issued an order setting a hearing for contempt of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which prohibits the closure of LICH. Included in that order is a modified TRO that reinforces to SUNY the fact that staffing must be maintained at the same level as it was on Feb. 20. The updated TRO eliminates the ban on communication between SUNY and the Department of Health but orders SUNY defendants (the SUNY board of trustees, SUNY Downstate and SUNY Downstate President Dr. John F. Williams) to maintain staffing, including particular requirements regarding the residency programs and the staffing of the psychiatry department.
But the administrators at Downstate have directed ambulances away from LICH and have had physicians transfer patients to other hospitals, including Downstate's East Flatbush campus. Informed of this via a text message sent by a union representative, the judge had this to say:
"Somebody in the audience just handed [me] this note. I am sure they are in contact with LICH and come to the conclusion that ... so they know this," said the judge. "They are not taking any more ambulances at the emergency room at LICH. If that is the case, that is in violation, clear violation of my order."
Stephen Pierson, a City Council candidate battling incumbent Steven Levin in Brooklyn's 33rd District, accused SUNY of blatantly violating court orders and the regular citizens of New York.
"When the lives and health of the people of our community are at stake, it becomes especially imperative that public discourse be characterized by transparency, honesty and forthrightness," said Pierson in an emailed statement to the AmNews. "The ongoing saga of Long Island College Hospital has been a case study in the reverse. Instead of conducting an honest conversation with the public, SUNY has repeatedly withheld information and even lied.
"SUNY's lies haven't just served to deceive; they have also had a very real impact on the availability of health care in our communities," continued Pierson. "At Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, walk-in patients are now waiting up to 10 hours to see a doctor. At Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene, a nurse told the Daily News that it is taking up to 36 hours for incoming patients to get a hospital bed."