The state Department of Health has turned down Long Island College Hospital’s request to close its maternity, pediatrics and dentistry divisions in what the hospital’s management company portrayed as a last-ditch effort to stave off financial ruin at the 150-year-old medical center, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.
“[The] plan is not acceptable at this time,” James Clyne, the state’s deputy commissioner for health systems management, wrote on Monday to the hospital’s overseers, the Manhattan-based Continuum Health Partners.
“There is insufficient capacity in the hospitals immediately around LICH and in much of Brooklyn to clearly demonstrate that women will have appropriate access to obstetrical and maternity care if LICH closes these services,” Clyne continued, echoing up on a Brooklyn Paper exclusive from earlier this fall.
Staff rejoiced when the hospital’s management sent a memo that the imperiled departments were pulled back from the brink.
“When people found out they were going to keep the wings open, everyone was very happy,” said Walter Gloor, a LICH employee.
The medical staff, which has been publicly battling management, exulted in the state’s ruling.
“This is a victory for the people of Brooklyn. The plan to close
obstetrics, neonatal and pediatric services would have destroyed women’s health care services for the neighborhoods that use Long Island College Hospital,” medical staff President Arnold Licht said in a statement.
Elected officials who had lobbied the state to reject Continuum’s downsizing applauded the outcome, too.
“I am very proud that the Department of Health recognized that closing unprofitable departments and services with no regard to the needs of the community is unacceptable,” said Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens).
But the news will not be received well by Continuum, which has said that closing the three wings was a key part of the plan to reduce the hospital’s deficit and pay down a $170-million debt. The hospital has already laid off 100 employees and says that it must sack 200 more.
The state’s ruling compounds Continuum’s problems to solve its financial woes. The company has also run into dead-ends in its attempts for merge LICH with another Brooklyn hospital, according to a source familiar with the hospital’s inner workings. The source told The Brooklyn Paper that entreaties made to Brooklyn Hospital were rejected and that a possible partnership with SUNY-Downstate, which has been frequently discussed by elected officials as the silver bullet, are going nowhere either.
On the plus side for Continuum, Health Department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said the state did approve the hospital’s request for a $3-million loan as a “first step towards stabilizing LICH,” she said.
Hutton said that such loans typically carry no interest.
Late on Monday night, Continuum put out a statement that said the group is encouraged that the state has allocated $3 million for the remainder of this year — and that they concede that the hospital is in serious financial distress.
The statement also issued a not-so-subtle warning about Continuum’s insistence that the hospital must be restructured and that more layoffs are coming: “We will look to work with [state officials] on an alternative solution to LICH’s problems. However, if we cannot find a viable solution then unfortunately the losses will be more than pediatrics and obstetrics.”
— with Evan Gardner