Brooklyn Boro

Assemblymember Simon’s hospital closure bill, named after LICH, passes the assembly

April 5, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
The former Long Island College Hospital, known as LICH. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle
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Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon announced Tuesday that her Local Input for Community Hospitals (LICH) Act passed the Assembly with bipartisan support. 

This major piece of legislation — whose title refers to Long Island College Hospital, a major hospital in Cobble Hill that was shut down in 2013-14 amid bitter protests from community members, medical staff and elected officials ؙ— ensures that communities receive notice and can provide input and the State Department of Health has oversight before hospitals, maternity or emergency departments are closed. The bill is supported by a broad coalition of health care and patient advocacy groups.

Simon (D-DUMBO-Downtown-Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill-Park Slope) said, “The LICH Act is all about patient safety, transparency, and engagement.  When SUNY Downstate proposed closing Long Island College Hospital in 2013, the State Department of Health neither notified nor sought input from the surrounding communities that LICH had served for 156 years, including low-income communities of color that had been designated ‘Health Professional Shortage Areas’ by the federal government. 

Brooklyn’s Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Photo by Susannah Pasquantonio

“The Red Hook and Gowanus communities – literally underwater during Superstorm Sandy – were left high and dry by the hospital’s closure. This harmful trend is happening across the state. This bill ensures a role for real community input and state review to protect New Yorkers before hospitals or major departments are closed,” Simon said.

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“When we learned of SUNY-Downstate’s plans to close Long Island College Hospital, my heart sank. The doctors and nurses at LICH had saved my life a few years earlier. I was grateful for their caring expertise and fearful of losing my health care professionals,” said Susan Raboy of Patients for LICH. When SUNY Downstate took over the troubled hospital in 2011, many neighbors were elated and assumed that the move ensured LICH’s survival, but they were soon disappointed.

“During our fight to save LICH, we learned that the State Department of Health wasn’t required to disclose the closure plans or engage with the communities it served,” Raboy said. “I am thankful that Assemblymember Simon hasn’t forgotten how the closure of LICH harmed our communities. With the passage of this bill, communities will have the right to real time information, to have their voices heard, and their health care needs addressed.”

“We commend Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for securing Assembly passage of this important piece of legislation, which will finally give affected communities advance notice and an opportunity to provide comments at a public hearing when a hospital is proposing to close entirely, or shut its emergency or maternity department,” said Lois Uttley, the Manhattan-based senior advisor for Community Catalyst’s Hospital Equity and Accountability Project. “More than 40 hospitals have closed across New York State, and others have shuttered their emergency departments or maternity units, leaving people without timely access to needed care in their home communities.” 

In the court case surrounding the closure of LICH, the court said that the current laws and regulations governing hospital closures is “unconstitutionally vague.” This bill seeks to address that issue.

When LICH originally closed, the state sought bids to develop the property. Despite the RFP (Request for Proposal) said that bids to develop a full-service hospital would be given preference, the winning proposal was that from Fortis Property Group, which sought to develop luxury housing on part of the site as well as an urgent care center. 

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio, as a councilmember, took part in the protests to save LICH. After being elected mayor, he stopped pushing for a full-service hospital at the site. Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo was also regarded by some observers as one of the forces pushing for the closing of LICH.

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