SUNY must work with doctors group to reopen ICU, ER on Monday
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest has delayed SUNY Downstate's transfer of all assets back to Long Island College Hospital (LICH) until Sept. 6, while critical services are restored.
On Aug. 20, Justice Demarest found that SUNY Downstate Medical Center had violated a contractual obligation to keep LICH open and ordered that LICH assets be transferred back to either Continuum Health Partners or another willing operator.
Continuum has said it is not interested in operating LICH, however. “Continuum Health Partners received Judge Demarest's decision and order in the matter of the Application of Long Island College Hospital today," Stanley Brezenoff, President and CEO of Continuum, said in a statement. "Upon due consideration, Continuum respectfully concludes that we cannot reassume management of LICH and is unable to take responsibility for the hospital's operations.”
After a meeting in her chambers on Thursday with SUNY, Concerned Physicians of LICH, the state Department of Health and a representative of the Attorney General's office, Justice Demarest ordered on Friday that SUNY Downstate must work with a group of doctors that has been fighting for years to save LICH, and immediately reopen the Intensive Care Unit, restore full operation of the Emergency Department and restore ambulance service to LICH no later than 3 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 26.
SUNY had banned ambulances from delivering patients to LICH back in June, leading to critical delays and overcrowding in ERs across Brooklyn all summer.
The doctors group, Concerned Physicians of LICH, is hoping to partner with one of the health organizations interested in taking over the Cobble Hill hospital from SUNY Downstate.
Justice Demarest set several conditions for the delay in transferring assets back to LICH. In the first, SUNY Downstate is "stayed from transferring, encumbering or conveying any LICH property," pending further order of the court. Secondly, SUNY Downstate and Concerned Physicians of LICH, are to prepare a staffing plan to reopen the services mentioned above. Finally, a proposal must be presented to the Court to provide funding from the LICH Liability Fund to assist in financing the restoration of these services. Justice Demarest scheduled another conference for Sept. 3.
Concerned Physicians of LICH, formed in 2008, fought Continuum Health Partners efforts to dismantle LICH before it was taken over by SUNY Downstate, and they also warned that the SUNY takeover "would not work and was doomed to failure, a prediction which recent events have confirmed," according to a statement on their long-lived website, http://www.lichmedicalstaff.org/
Concerned Physicians' organizational statement reads in part, "The downtown Brooklyn community needs LICH and it needs LICH to provide its full range of services. While things are hardly perfect at LICH, the problems that exist could be readily corrected by effective, modern management once we have management that truly focuses on LICH, and making it the premier medical facility in Brooklyn that it was not that many years ago. Sadly, Continuum Health Partners and then Downstate's mismanagement has led us to the state in which we now find our community hospital."
Justice Demarest also wrote that the Attorney General, "has indicated his intention to continue in his statutory role to ensure that the charitable purposes of LICH are furthered and protected."
See www.brooklyneagle.com for updates on this story.
Updated August 25 with a statement from Continuum Health Partners.