Cobble Hill

NOT SO FAST! As LICH files closure plan, judge issues restraining order

February 20, 2013 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The State University of New York on Wednesday filed a formal plan to close Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill. That action was quickly followed by a judge’s order temporarily restraining SUNY’s action.

The order issued by Judge Betsy Barros bars SUNY from taking any steps to close LICH, pending further hearings, WNYC reported.

The New York State Nurses Association and Local 1199 SIEU told NY1 that a judge would hear arguments in the case on March 7.

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A spokesman for SUNY Downstate, with operates LICH, said Downstate’s closure plan requires approval by the state Department of Health. The spokesman, Ron Najman, did not make public the logistics of the proposed closing.

“While a painful step, this is a crucial step in the long-term effort to preserve high quality patient services and medical education at Downstate Medical Center,” SUNY Downstate Medical Center President Dr. John Williams said.  “I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that Downstate continues to fulfill its critical academic and health care responsibilities for the communities we serve, the patients we treat, and the students we educate.

If approved, as expected, the process could be completed fairly quickly. In the most famous hospital closing case in the New York metro area in recent memory, that of St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in lower Manhattan, the hospital declared on April 6, 2010, that it was closing. The last patient was seen on April 30, in the emergency room.

A hospital industry insider, who declined to be named, said that in such cases, the departments don’t necessarily close at different times, but may close all at once. The first step, of course, is not accepting new patients.

As for the doctors, they have to give the patients information on other offices where patients can see them. “Remember,” he said, “most doctors don’t work for the hospital [although there are some, called hospitalists, who do]. They’re often affiliated with several different hospitals.” Those who aren’t, he said, will have to find new affiliations.

Clinic patients, as opposed to patients of particular doctors, will be given information, by conspicuously displayed signs and referrals, about other clinics in the area where they can go.

The nurses and technicians, he added, do work directly for the hospital. Most would remain until the end, but during that time, they would be actively engaged in a job search. In cases where hospitals belong to a network (for example, New York Methodist is part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System), the “parent company” may try to absorb some of the employees from the hospital that is closing.

As for the emergency room, he added, it would stay open to the end, but even beforehand, ambulances might get instructions to drive patients to other hospitals instead.

“Of course,” he concluded, “there are always those people who don’t really read the news, rarely go out of their house, and when they finally do have to get the hospital, they may find it closed. For those people, there will be signs on the door telling them who to contact.”

Of course, it’s a safe bet that none of the Eagle’s readers want LICH to close. But if it does, it will be in good company. Hospitals in Greater New York that have closed in the past 10 years include St. Mary’s Hospital in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cabrini Hospital in Manhattan, North General Hospital in Harlem, Peninsula Hospital in Rockaway, the aforementioned St. Vincent’s, St. Clare’s in Manahttan and others.

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