NYU Langone pulls out of LICH sale following union lawsuit

September 19, 2014 Heather Chin
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The all-but-confirmed purchase of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) by Fortis Property Group is now barely holding on now that Fortis’ key medical partner, NYU Langone Medical Center, has withdrawn from the purchase plan.

NYU’s announcement came early on Friday, September 19, following New York Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes’ Thursday decision to include NYU as a “direct” party in a lawsuit filed by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA).

The lawsuit against the current LICH owner, State University of New York (SUNY), alleged that SUNY require NYU to rehire LICH nurses who had been laid-off during the closure/sale process.

“Fortis and NYU were selected to take over Long Island College Hospital based on commitments they made [to maintain] continuity of care by employing LICH nurses,” said NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo.

NYU explained their decision by stating that “we fear this would ultimately force NYU Langone to remove the highly qualified nursing staff we had hired and constrain our ability to choose nurses who meet our standards.”

In addition to “expend[ing] significant resources” on Emergency Department (ED) renovations and equipment, “we had hired 99 staff, which included 60 positions for Local 1199 union staff, and 25 registered nurses, each highly qualified with a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and emergency medicine or medical/surgical experience, including seven who are former or current LICH RNs.”

However, local elected officials criticized the purchasing team for not giving former LICH nurses a “first shot” and stated that “SUNY’s insistence on a large payday – even after they ran LICH into the ground – compels developers to propose out-of-context, high-rise luxury condos and leaves little room to provide the health care that our communities needs and deserve.”

Officials who signed the statement were State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Joan Millman, and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Stephen Levin and Carlos Menchaca, as well as 52nd Assembly District Leader JoAnne Simon.

With the promise of healthcare now in jeopardy, they called on SUNY to keep the LICH ER open and the state to “transfer LICH to a team that will maximize health care.”

September 1 had been the latest in a long line of pushed-back dates planned for SUNY’s hand-off of the ED to NYU/Fortis. SUNY now remains responsible for the department until it becomes clear what NYU’s withdrawal means for the overall deal.

Just last month, on August 18, the sale faced another hurdle with the departure of L+M Development Partners – one of two developers tapped to bring affordable housing to the LICH site. L+M co-founder Ron Moelis had cited concerns about the short time frame for finalizing the sale, as well as the plan’s relatively short height for the anticipated apartment buildings.

The sale and closure of LICH has been rife with drama and controversy from the outset, with lawsuits and appeals from, by and on behalf of residents and city officials filed constantly for nearly two years – a fight that arguably helped former local councilmember Bill de Blasio’s campaign for mayor and tied into the overall issues of the status and systemic health of healthcare and hospitals in New York State, New York City and Brooklyn.

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