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The money the state is spending keeping Long Island College Hospital afloat could torpedo the East Flatbush mothership, officials say

Lose-lose: Pols say SUNY Downstate could follow LICH’s downward spiral

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The state’s marquee Brooklyn hospital could go down with the sinking ship that is Long Island College Hospital, politicians, union bigs, and community leaders warned at a meeting on Feb. 6.

The state has spent the last year trying to close and sell off Long Island College Hospital, but the process has been tied up in legal battles while the state has pled poverty, claiming that running the facility is a money pit that endangers the operation of its main Kings County interest, the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush. Now, local officials insist that the state was not bluffing, though some brushed off management’s claim that the fight to save Cobble Hill’s medical center is to blame.

“Some people are saying because LICH stakeholders held up the process it has hurt Downstate. They blame the stakeholde­rs,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “That’s a lot of hyperbole.”

The gathering at the Saint Lucia House on E. 49th Street between Church and Snyder avenues drew a gaggle of state officials including assemblymen Walter Mosley (D–Prospect Heights), James Brennan (D–Flatbush), and Karim Camara (D–Prospect Lefferts Gardens) as well the public advocate and Borough President Adams. A contingent of clergy members and Downstate staffer union representatives also turned out.

The state took control of a floundering Long Island College Hospital in 2011, putting it under the control of the state university system, and tying its fate to the Downstate Medical Center, according to state reps. University trustees voiced concerns about the hospital hemorrhaging cash at a meeting last month, going so far as to say that the sale of the land valued at as much as $500 million might not be enough to save Downstate.

“Even if we execute a sale of the [Long Island College Hospital] property that yields the appraised value, SUNY will still be left with a gap of at least $300 million,” said Robert Haelen, who is serving as interim chief financial officer for the board of trustees. “The numbers are daunting.”

Haelen added that Downstate is currently making money, but the state expects it to start running in the red by March. The expected shortfall has supporters clamoring for more state funding to keep Downstate open.

“The governor continues to ignore this community,” said Pastor Shane Vidal from the Maranatha Seventh Day Adventist Church. “He has a responsibility to respect people.”

Gov. Cuomo has so far refused to budge on his budget proposal, which according to union officials cuts public teaching hospital funding by half.

But he and Mayor DeBlasio are begging the feds for a waiver that would allow the state to spend $10 billion of Medicaid money to prop up struggling medical centers around the state.

Local pols worry that the money may skip Downstate because the waiver is not granted on the basis of need, but is intended to promote programs that are in line with federal healthcare policy.

“It’s clear that we have a need,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara. “But we’ll still have to compete for it.”

Downstate has already shed jobs, according to labor leaders active in the hospital.

The staff has been reduced from a high of 8,000 workers to around 7,000, said Don Morgenstern, who is a leader in the Public Employees Federation union and was recently laid off from his research position at Downstate.

And as staffing levels have decreased, patient loads have gone up, he said.

“They are killing patients, and they don’t care,” said Morgenstern.

“They care only about dollars,” he added.

Advocates stress that closing any hospital affects all of Brooklyn, since cut-off patients have to be absorbed by other medical centers.

“My district is nowhere near Downstate,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley. “But I understand the ripple effect. This not only affects the neighborhood surrounding SUNY Downstate, but the neighborhoods surrounding all the other hospitals.”

Some residents of East Flatbush agree.

“The hospital is the lifeline of Central Brooklyn,” said Jennifer Clarke, a 26-year resident of the neighborhood. “If you close Downstate you’re literally killing Brooklyn.”

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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Reader Feedback

LICHpatient from BKhts says:
SUNY lies & lies & lies. They took over LICH to bail themselves out of their own financial mess that was sinking their schools all on their own. They were going to use the LICH cash-cow to pay for their deficits at the medical school & for SUNYs grand schemes in central Brooklyn, like building another new hospital there with the money they get by killing the only hospital in west brooklyn. Too bad the community & LICH got in their way. Now they blame LICH for sinking their schools because they wont let SUNY cash in the cow. SUNY could have been long gone from LICH months ago if they had listened to the community needs & weren't trying to be so sneaky doing back room real estate deal instead of looking for a HOSPIATL operator. And all the while refusing to allow LICH doctors in, procedures to be scheduled, or patients to be admitted. Entirely irresponsible & contemptuous of this community. Now they want to cry that LICH isnt bringing in money & they're losing $ while they actively did verything they could to cut off LICH income. SABOTAGE & DECEIVING THE PUBLIC. SUNY's mess is the fault of SUNY officials. After this debacle they should all be fired.
Feb. 7, 2014, 3:42 pm
LICHpatient from BKhts says:
Downstate's patient load has gone up because of all the patients they're transferring out of LICH's ER.
Brooklyn can't afford to lose either hospital. the mayor & Governor have a responsibility here. Don't they understand that If all those patients could be treated at urgent care centers, they wouldn't be in those hospital beds? The lunatics are running the assylum
Feb. 7, 2014, 3:53 pm
Doc C from East Flatbush says:
People, the state will downsize Downstate hospital to ambulatory services & then privatize it after it convinces everyone that lich has to be killed to save it. If not stopped, scare tactics will prevail, lich will be gone then they'll get rid of Downstate. Brooklyn is being played & will end up paying with our lives. These hospitals should be taken away from that incompetent empire known as SUNY & given over to real hospital operators that aren't more interested in making a profit than they are in their service to the public.
Feb. 7, 2014, 5:21 pm
SUNY Student from NY says:
SUNY is blaming WHO for their financial troubles?
"Senate Task Force Probes SUNY Spending"
http://www.nysenate.gov/press-release/government-efficiency-task-force-probes-suny-wasteful-spending-practices

"New Report Exposes SUNY's Wasteful Spending"
http://www.nysenate.gov/video/2010/feb/17/new-report-exposes-wasteful-spending-suny

"NY Comptroller Uncovers FRAUD at Downstate"
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/apr12/041012.htm

"No Work - Good Pay at SUNY"
http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/No-work-good-pay-at-SUNY-561330.php

"Assemblyman Outraged at Top-Heavy SUNY Administration"
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/27806/assemblyman-outraged-at-suny-administration/

"SUNY Chancellor called into Senate hearing to explain extraordinary pay hikes, perks & lavish multi-million-dollar executive office renovations"
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/SUNY-pay-hikes-draw-hearing-663739.php
Feb. 7, 2014, 5:37 pm
Resident from Cobble Hill says:
too many people interfering with the progression

We've all had a voice, now let them do what they need to do to move on.
Feb. 7, 2014, 7:06 pm
Rodelinda Jones from Flatbush says:
Andrew Cumo is beyond scum, he's just like Daddy saved his ass from all the trouble he caused. Andy is also a zero in Washington D.C.-- always will be-- and sadly, he is free to ruin New York further.

Whatever one thought of Elliott Spitzer, the fact that he despises Cuomo is all anyone should have cared about.
Feb. 8, 2014, 1:14 am
lynette from East flatbush says:
I just need the politicians to remember that elections would come around again. They already forgot who voted to put them in power.
Health care workers have to ask which institution is next and we need to hold our elected officials RESPONSIBLE.
Feb. 9, 2014, 10:57 am
Will from Red Hook says:
where's councilmember menchaca on any of this?? he made all these promises to be vocal and visible on so many issues and yet he's no where to be seen on anything. just retweeting stuff that i guess is supposed to make him seem active??... shame...
Feb. 10, 2014, 2:58 pm
noting anyone from Brooklyn can do says:
That's it, nothing anyone from Brooklyn can do. Nothing.

Health care workers and their Union leaders are to blame. Your not in it for the patients, your in it for the $ bill yall.

I don't see any of ya offering a WAGE compromise to make it work, just blaming everything on the "bad management".

Well, there's lots of other prime real estate where hospitals reside that ain't going to developers.

You made the beds, but it doesn't seem you want to lay in them. Your Unions are killing you, slowly, slowly...
Feb. 15, 2014, 1:21 am
kill the union from LICH says:
Kill the unions and save the hospitals

The unions have a fat racket, time to stop feeding them, yum, yum, I can't get enough
Feb. 15, 2014, 1:26 am
LICH Truth from Bayridge says:
LICH is a half a billion in debt. NYS Comptroller said reason SUNY has fiscal problems is takeover of LICH
May 21, 2014, 1:52 pm

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