SUNY Board votes to close Long Island College Hospital

February 8, 2013 Denise Romano
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The SUNY Board of Trustees voted to close Long Island College Hospital on the morning of Friday, February 8.

The vote was unanimous and came amidst continued cries of protest from Brooklyn residents, politicians and healthcare workers, who maintain that the hospital – which merged with SUNY Downstate in 2011 — is an integral part of the south Brooklyn and Downtown Brooklyn community.

The Assembly Health Committee held a “Brooklyn health care crisis” hearing at Borough Hall that same morning, where leaders in the industry and elected officials testified against the closure. Borough President Marty Markowitz said the proposed shuttering was “simply unacceptable” and that statistics show that the facility is not underutilized.

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“LICH provides essential medical treatment for thousands of Brooklynites with chronic conditions and those seeking emergency care—without it, they will lose their lifeline,” he testified. “Furthermore, the New York Nurses Association also found that in 2012 there were well over 120,000 patient visits to LICH,” Markowitz went on. “Roughly 20 percent of those were emergency room visits, meaning without LICH, one out of every five patients would have had to go elsewhere, losing valuable time in the process. And in life-threatening situations, every second counts.”

Markowitz also stressed that the real estate value of LICH’s property is estimated at $500 million. “It raises the serious concern that this hospital may be viewed more valuable closed than open,” he contended. “But whatever profits SUNY might gain from real estate will be more than offset by the loss in jobs and valuable medical service to our community.”

United University Professions President Phillip Smith testified to keep LICH a fully functioning facility. “If we fail to keep Downstate Medical Center as a viable full-service public teaching hospital, many gaps will quickly develop in the health care services required by the Brooklyn community,” Smith said in written testimony.

UUP member Karen Benker, M.D., a former clinical physician and current associate professor at SUNY Downstate, testified that closing University Hospital “would be a severe blow to the health of residents of Central Brooklyn.”

People come from the surrounding neighborhood and all across Brooklyn to get care at LICH, said registered nurse Herdley Hill, a psychiatric nurse at LICH. Many of our patients are low-income. Many are people of color. Many are from underserved communities. They deserve the best care — we save lives every day.

Closer to home, Councilmember Vincent Gentile expressed his concern.

I am stunned to learn the SUNY Board voted unanimously to close 155-year-old Long Island College Hospital. LICH is the only ER in the Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill area. Not only that but about 2,000 jobs are at stake, he said.

LICH serves over 100,000 patients a year, many of whom are working families, seniors and other vulnerable patient populations throughout Brooklyn,” he went on. My colleagues and I have been urging Chairman McCall and the trustees to explore alternative solutions which would keep LICH’s vital healthcare services and good jobs in their community. This is a dreadful decision.

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