As LICH lawsuits fly, Brooklyn patients must travel farther
Worries, when minutes make a difference
It was a scene that has played out numerous times since Long Island College Hospital (LICH) was placed on ambulance diversion.
A man collapsed, unconscious, in his apartment in Brooklyn Heights. His girlfriend called 9-1-1. An ambulance from Brooklyn Hospital Center (BHC) arrived and EMTs assessed the patient, who was unresponsive. Eventually, he was wheeled downstairs, and EMTs gave the girlfriend a choice: Bring him to BHC, or New York Methodist?
Neighbor and friend Susan Raboy advised the girlfriend, “Go to Methodist.” The man was rushed there where, all agree, he received excellent treatment. But after all-night surgery, his outcome is still in doubt.
Both BHC and Methodist are further from Brooklyn Heights than LICH, and doctors and nurses told the Brooklyn Eagle on Sunday that LICH specialized in treating the condition that afflicted the man — and that minutes may have made a difference in his outcome.
This is the reality of life in neighborhoods from Red Hook to Williamsburg today, as residents of Brooklyn’s fastest-growing areas face a future without their hospital.
Raboy, who happens to be spokesperson for Patients for LICH, said she was deeply concerned about her friend’s condition. “I’ve been told by his girlfriend that he is receiving amazing care [at Methodist]. But often it’s a matter of seconds. We need ambulances and a hospital to serve our community. We need LICH.”
“This story also highlights the loss of one of the best EMS squads in NYC — LICH — who never needed to be told how to do their jobs, which, by the way, is based on strict protocols, drilled into them everyday and in required monthly CME,” said a LICH doctor.
Only a skeleton emergency department accepting walk-in patients remains open at the former Cobble Hill hospital. On Saturday, the State University of New York (SUNY) cut the department’s staffing in half, leaving roughly 32 staff members to cover all shifts. SUNY has said it will keep the walk-in open for just a short time longer while negotiations with bidders continue, though an exact date changes with the circumstances.
In the meantime, the messy and as-yet unresolved sale of LICH has spawned a tangle of court filings and protests from LICH advocates and jilted bidders alike.
State Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes has before him a series of thorny issues that will have long-reaching consequences for northwestern Brooklyn.
SUNY has rejected the two highest ranked bids in its controversy-plagued Request For Proposals (RFP) process and is now negotiating with the third highest ranked bidder, Fortis Property Group.
On Tuesday, community groups and other LICH supporters will continue arguing their case before Justice Baynes. The groups, which have been fighting LICH’s closure since January 2013, say that some of the RFP bid evaluators did not follow the rules laid out by the court.
Attorney Jim Walden (Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher) told Justice Baynes last Tuesday that six (out of 18) panelists had not followed instructions to rank proposals offering hospitals higher than non-hospital proposals.
SUNY attorneys on Tuesday told the judge that evaluators were merely using their own judgment and that the RFP allowed the flexibility to rank those not offering hospitals more highly.
But this appears to be a stance contrary to one taken by SUNY’s own lawyers, who told SUNY trustees after a settlement was reached that if a proposal “doesn’t include an ER, intensive care unit, beds, you get your score lowered… If you include a 100-bed hospital, you get it increased.”
SUNY trustees were also informed that the evaluators’ ranking were “binary” – either yes or no.
Walden said he would continue to negotiate with Fortis while seeking to disqualify the RFP rankings.
Other legal actions
Peebles: The Peebles Corporation has also begun a protest proceeding with SUNY over its rejection of the developer’s $260 million bid to buy LICH. Peebles, which proposed not a hospital but a “free-standing emergency department” and ambulatory care, came in second in the RFP process.
Peebles says SUNY failed to negotiate in good faith for 30 days, as required under a court-mandated Request for Proposals (RFP) procedure. SUNY denies this charge.
On May 5, SUNY began negotiations with Peebles. On May 22, Peebles reached an agreement with community groups and the Public Advocate that it would carry out a community health needs survey that included the possibility of expanding care at LICH. After disagreements on issues including Peebles accepting the property “as is,” who would operate the ER, and who would cover the expenses of the ER, on May 28 SUNY notified Peebles that it was rejecting its bid.
On June 3, Peebles attorney Allan Arffa (of Paul, Weiss) notified SUNY that Peebles was protesting SUNY’s “failure to negotiate in good faith with the Peebles Corporation over the Proposal and SUNY’s improper, abrupt and premature termination on May 28, 2014 of any further negotiations, eight days prior to the end of the 30 day negotiation period required” by the RFP and Settlement Stipulation.
Peebles wants SUNY to halt negotiations with other bidders, and reinstate “good-faith negotiations” with the Peebles Corporation. Peebles health care partners Northshore LIJ, Maimonides Medical Center, ProHEALTH Corp. and Institute for Family Health have joined in the protest.
Brooklyn Health Partners: Brooklyn Health Partners, whose bid was scored highest in the RFP process, was rejected by SUNY in early May. BHP’s bid proposed a full-service hospital.
Citing BHP’s inability to deliver the interim health care that it promised in its proposal (and not helped by several legal bungles made by BHP), Justice Baynes rejected BHP’s challenge to SUNY.
BHP is also considering filing a formal protest, said Merrell Schexnydre, BHP’s President and CEO. BHP’s finance partner earlier filed an appeal. Schexnydre also says that SUNY failed to negotiate in good faith for 30 days, as required by the RFP.
“SUNY stopped talking to us and stopped answering question,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle on May 7. “We were pretty close to finishing the deal. We reached out on a couple of issues and our attorneys didn’t get a response.”
Prime Healthcare Foundation: Prime Healthcare Foundation, which was ranked fourth, filed a “motion to intervene” last Tuesday, to “join in the motion made by the community to change the rankings,” a Prime spokesperson told the Eagle.
There is nothing in the settlement or RFP limiting the number of qualified proposers that SUNY may negotiate with. If negotiations with Fortis are unsuccessful, SUNY may move on to bidder number four. With deep pockets and a history of successfully turning around failing hospitals, Prime is offering to operate a full-service hospital at LICH.
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