Howe’s Brooklyn: LICH: A modest proposal, a practical solution

March 20, 2014 By Sam Howe Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Here’s a riddle that has, for some of us,  a simple answer.

A full-service hospital that loses money—and loses money big-time if run inefficiently—happens to sit on some prime real estate in Brooklyn.  What should be done?

The hospital site also borders two of the healthiest, wealthiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn. There is a prime opportunity to engage those communities for support, the kind of support that could be garnered for a sports ‘ home team’.  The absence of LICH has created desire and belief that the neighboring historic brownstone communities SHOULD have their own ‘home team’ hospital.   Do they deserve it ? Would they support it ?  A former operator of LICH, ignored and even severed those traditional venues of support , which had pre-existed at LICH in years past. (If there had NOT been a history of community devotion to LICH,  it is doubtful that the 100-plus million dollar  Othmer bequest would have included LICH.)

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What many observers do not realize  is that the original Brooklyn Hospital (now the expanded Brooklyn Hospital Center) also enjoyed  historic and significant support from the Heights-Hill community. Like the old LICH, it attracted board members, large contributors and volunteers from the same community. LICH’s  recent former operator killed the structure for such support and discouraged high-level, Heights- based Wall Street execs  from being involved. Recent history shows that the operator had  plans for LICH other than revival; community representation was an advisory role on soft matters.   

Brooklyn Hospital Center , on the other hand, has continued  to draw broad support from the Heights-Hill community. Given the chance to create a new “home town hospital” in the middle of the Heights and Cobble Hill,  a merged LICH-BHC might create the historic and medical institution that could , in essence , re-kindle the fires of broad-based community support –a support that would include some of the wealthiest families in Brooklyn. Under the re-organization skills of Dr. Richard Becker, the man who brought BHC out of bankruptcy,  the merged institution would have two physical plants, each with appropriate specialties, and a broader base of access to and support for both sites.

If BHC can provide the communities around LICH with more than simply an ER clinic,  Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill might imagine and fulfill what we all need: a home team medical facility that can make us proud enough to contribute and volunteer.

Now that all bids are in, many community leaders and elected officials can be proud that they played a huge, transformative role in improving the health care component offered by all participating bidders.

We have come a long way since the initial proposals of ‘real estate- only ‘ deals. But it is also doubtful that a full service hospital at that site could be implemented without years of delay as requisite real estate components of the deal come to fruition.

A truly local option, the Brooklyn Hospital Center, already has a robust network of community-based care, and can implement faster than any other entity the re-establishment of medical services in the LICH plant, while real estate components that will help support future services are planned.

BHC has the best opportunity to re-invigorate truly local Heights-Hill community support   that can restore LICH to the ranks of its past status , pre-Continuum:  a magnet for locally-based financial, board  and  volunteerism  support. Community voices who look hopefully to promises of full service facilities may be misled, sadly,  as to the time frame for investment, local cultivation and simple re-orientation can drag on. BHC seems ready to move quickly to incorporate a neighboring physical plant –about a mile away—into their medical service area.  

It’s a logical and practical solution with existing community roots.    

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