Agreement: LICH dead, but emergency room will limp on

News analysis: If LICH closes, housing towers could rise
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

On the very day Long Island College Hospital was set to close, community groups and hospital workers struck a deal with the company in talks to buy the medical campus from the state to continue emergency services there.

The settlement ensures an emergency department will serve the community for the next 20 years while a developer dismantles the rest of the operation and builds housing on the site, lawyers said. The agreement was a small victory for those who want to see the 156-year-old hospital remain a hospital, but activists say the compromise after nearly a year of litigation to save the place amounts to two steps forward and one step back.

“I’m deeply troubled it’s not a full-service hospital, but I’m somewhat relieved at there being some service,” said Sue Raboy, a member of Patients for LICH.

Other hospital advocates took a rosier view.

“Fifteen months ago, this was likely to be a real estate deal with no hospital,” said Richard Selzer, a lawyer for the staffer union New York State Nurses Association, referring to the moment the state first moved to gut the medical center that sits on land valued at as much as $500 million.

The State University of New York took over Long Island College Hospital in 2011, but claimed the facility was a money-loser beyond saving and put the land up for sale in 2012. The state was moving to select a developer without public input, but after lawsuits from community groups and nurses unions, Judge Johnny Lee Baynes ordered the state to take development proposals and create a panel of state employees and community stakeholders to score the bids, emphasizing those that preserved a full-service hospital and maintained care without interruption. The settlement allowed the state to walk away from the hospital on or after May 22, but the state says it will continue to run the emergency department through May 27.

The community groups and hospital doctors had sued to have some scores thrown out, claiming state appointees, a majority in the secret ranking process, gave poor marks to proposals that included a health services component and high marks to housing-only proposals, in direct contradiction to the terms of the court agreement. The coalition offered to withdraw the suit if leading bidder Peebles Corporation agreed to continue emergency services while it hammers out details of the sale with the state.

Per the terms of the latest agreement, if Peebles buys the land that has views of the New York Harbor for $260 million, it must operate the emergency department for the next 20 years. Should negotiations fall through, it is on the hook for the bill for emergency services until the state identifies a new buyer, lawyers told the court.

Peebles tapped partner North Shore—LIJ to take over the emergency facility using the State University of New York’s license when the state bowed out on Tuesday, according to the agreement presented in court. The agreement directs Peebles and North Shore–LIJ to obtain an operating license and restore ambulance service, which ended last week, by July 15.

The agreement also requires that Peebles hire someone to determine what kind of health services are necessary for the area formerly served by Long Island College Hospital. Under the settlement, Peebles would be obligated to provide any services deemed necessary by the hired consultant and act in good faith to provide the prescribed medical services.

But what the assessment will look like and who will conduct it are up in the air — and Baynes guessed he hasn’t seen the end of lawsuit over the fate of the redevelopment.

“I don’t think it’s over yet,” Baynes told the court. “We’re going to be back in here to resolve other issues.”

The remaining three patients were transported out of the hospital by midnight last Thursday, a state representative said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.