OPINION: Patients for LICH call on de Blasio to support return of hospital to northwest Brooklyn
On Monday, the advocacy group Patients for LICH released the following statement regarding Long Island College Hospital following SUNY’s announcement that an agreement had been reached to sell the hospital to Fortis Property Group for development into condos:
We represent patients of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and their families and friends. We have stood at dozens of rallies and protests over the past sixteen months and have joined others in collecting over 56,000 signatures of individuals committed to saving our hospital. Our community organizations have litigated alongside hospital unions and the New York City Public Advocate, and our elected officials have stood with us over many months of struggle to keep our full-service hospital.
Judge Baynes’ June 13 decision rejecting our communities’ challenge to the LICH RFP scoring was disappointing and also puzzling. The decision cited absence of evidence, but community groups had in fact offered in evidence a key SUNY admission, and the court had refused to hear the testimony of a member of the RFP technical evaluation committee. Judge Baynes also expressed his reluctance to interfere in a settlement over which he had explicitly retained jurisdiction — a settlement whose essential ingredient, the preservation of a full-service hospital at LICH, was subverted by SUNY’s administration of the RFP process. This decision strengthens our resolve to fight for the survival of LICH, the hospital that has served the healthcare needs of our communities for 156 years.
We call on Mayor de Blasio and the Health and Hospitals Corporation to support our efforts to ensure the return of a full-service hospital to LICH and to help facilitate the New York State licensing process for such a hospital.
We welcome a health needs assessment to confirm to others what we already know — that it is obvious from the demographics of the area the community needs what it once had: a fully functioning full-service hospital. Before SUNY withdrew services, LICH had 90% in-patient occupancy and over 50,000 annual emergency room visits, serving a total of one quarter of a million people each year.
The catchphrase “continuity of care” should not be used to obscure our need for a full-service hospital. A phrase that used to mean that the vital life-saving hospital services at LICH would continue during a transition period to a new operator now stands for very little, given the amount of care currently offered at LICH by a reduced ER with no ambulance service. Those of us needing serious medical care, hospital admission, surgery and the like, must be sent elsewhere, losing critical time in an emergency. It is a dangerous and frightening situation.
A freestanding ER that can accept only BLS (basic life support) ambulances – as opposed to ALS (advanced life support) ambulances — will not substantially change this dangerous situation for residents in the LICH catchment area and does not substitute for a full-service hospital. Ambulance responders for serious cases will have to travel longer distances – sometimes at a risk to life – as documented in Mayor de Blasio’s July 2013 report, “Distance Matters: What Losing Two Hospitals Would Mean for Brooklyn.” Patients who go to such an ER requiring serious medical care will need to be transferred elsewhere, again losing critical time.
Now, just two days after Judge Baynes’ decision, SUNY has announced an agreement in principle to sell LICH to the Fortis Property Group, which proposes just such a freestanding ER, rather than a hospital. According to Fortis, patients who need hospitalization, including intensive care, will be taken from LICH by ambulance to a hospital.
By announcing that “the objectives set out in the stipulation and order and RFP have been met in principle,” SUNY acknowledges the RFP objectives — continuity of health care operations and a full-service hospital – and highlights the reality that it has not in fact met either of them. We hope that the highly-regarded health care institutions associated with the Fortis proposal will give serious consideration to meeting the RFP goal and community healthcare needs by extending their medical services to include an in-patient hospital.