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LICH supporters slam SUNY's Fortis-NYU plan as 'smoke and mirrors'

SUNY's latest plan for Long Island College Hospital (LICH) was discussed at Monday's SUNY board meeting, but no final decisions were made. Photo: Mary Frost

Say SUNY brought money woes on itself

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Doctors fighting to save Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Brooklyn say that SUNY's plan to sell LICH's real estate to Fortis Property Group with an NYU-supplied "free-standing Emergency Department" is "smoke and mirrors." 
 
The proposal calls for LICH's valuable real estate to be developed into condos, with NYU-Langone and Lutheran Medical Center offering outpatient medical services and the free-standing ED.
 
SUNY described the plan at a board meeting on Monday -- amidst dire warnings that LICH, drained of patients and income for more than a year by SUNY, was costing so much money that the state might have to scale back services at its upstate colleges or even close campuses.
 
The Fortis proposal, even with NYU's involvement, would not include an actual hospital -- something which LICH supporters say makes it dead in the water.
 
"With the NYU-Fortis plan the LICH  'Emergency Room' would in truth be an urgent care center, as no critically ill patient would ever be transported to the ER by ambulance," long-time ER physician Dr. Saul Melman said in a statement. Dr. Melman is on the board of Concerned Physicians of LICH, a member of the coalition which has been battling SUNY's attempts to close LICH for more than a year.  
 
Seriously injured or critically ill patients "would be better off going to an ER that is attached to a full service hospital that cares for patients suffering from stroke, heart attack, GI bleeding, etc.," Dr. Melman said. 
"The proposed 'stand alone ER' is smoke and mirrors," he said. "This is of critical importance if the community surrounding LICH wants an emergency room which can provide emergent care and there, and then immediately transfer care to inpatient services at LICH where minutes may make the difference between life and death. They should be aware that 'stand-alone ER' would not provide this."
Other advocates say that SUNY brought its money woes on itself.

"SUNY prevented hospital services for months which prevented LICH from making any money and now they  blame LICH," said Sue Raboy, spokesperson for Patients for LICH, another member of the LICH coalition.   

 "Where are the doctors that SUNY said they would bring back? Where are the services? How many lives have been lost?" she asked. "If they brought back the doctors, opened the OR,  and allowed more than BLS [Basic Life Support] ambulances they would not be losing money."
 
Barbara Gartner, a Brooklyn Heights resident and LICH patient, said on Monday that SUNY's litany of financial woe was "a cynical red herring, designed to pit the SUNY  students against LICH employees."
 
"The Trustees never question the fact that SUNY has brought these losses on itself by refusing to admit patients,"  she added.
 
LICH nurses and other supporters planned to hold a "speak out" Tuesday morning in front of LICH before getting on the bus to Albany, where they will deliver 18,000 petition signatures to SUNY Trustees calling on them to keep LICH open as a full service hospital. 
 
"SUNY has said they won't take any action regarding LICH at their second day of meetings, but LICH activists will be there to make sure that SUNY keeps its word and that they hear from the Brooklyn community," the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said.
The original proposal, submitted by Fortis Property Group in response to a Request for Proposals issued by SUNY, would have leased the hospital’s main building to ProHealth for a “medical mall” and developed the other LICH buildings as condos.

In the revised version, Fortis would partner with NYU Langone Medical Center and also Lutheran Medical Center.

NYU would provide services including an urgent care center, a radiology and diagnostic center and six specialty centers, such as gastroenterology, pulmonary and cancer care. Lutheran would provide dental health, primary care and behavioral health.

On Monday, Carl McCall, chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees, when asked about yet another bid for LICH by Brooklyn Hospital Center, said, “I only heard about it in the press."

SUNY says that Brooklyn Hospital Center’s bid, which involves rentals instead of condos, wasn’t submitted within the official RFP timeline and so will not be considered. The issue of NYU and Lutheran's inclusion in the deal after the RFP process's conclusion was not raised.

Insiders had said last week that SUNY had planned to move forward with the Fortis-NYU plan as early as Tuesday. SUNY said over the weekend, however, and again on Monday that it would not takes steps to finalize the deal on Tuesday.

Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, attorney for LICH advocates, told the Eagle, "We are grateful for SUNY's decision to defer a vote on the NYU-Langone decision."

Deborah Bingham, a long-time Brooklyn Heights resident, said, "I am very happy that SUNY agreed to table all the votes regarding the sale of LICH for condos. My community needs a full service hospital  not  more condos."
 
Other members of the LICH coalition include the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199SEIU, patients, six community groups and elected representatives including Mayor Bill de Blasio.
 
January 14, 2014 - 1:58am


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