Cuff ’em! Activists want state officials prosecuted for handling of LICH

LICH protesters block traffic, get arrested
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The state’s management of Long Island College Hospital is not malpractice, it is homicide, say doctors who renewed calls to criminally prosecute state officials for their handling of the hospital at a meeting of a Cobble Hill neighborhood group on Monday night.

The outcry came hours after the State University of New York, which manages the medical center and has been trying to shutter it since February, canceled the layoff of 500 staffers, but that was not nearly enough to appease the activists who claim that the state has been trying to kill the 155-year-old Cobble Hill institution to sell off the valuable real estate beneath it, in clear violation of court orders.

“The Cobble Hill Association is very interested in criminal proceedings,” said Jeff Strabone, a member of the group, drawing applause from the crowd interspersed with chants of “Lock ‘em up!”

Advocates for the hospital have claimed that the state is in contempt of court for months, pointing to the repeated steps it took to reduce services at the health care facility in the face of court orders banning any such moves.

Calls for prosecution have grown louder as Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes has deferred ruling on whether state officials are in contempt, which could result in fines and even jail time, and employees have faced firing, according to hospital advocates. Hospital workers and outraged neighbors say that punishment is the only way to deter state officials who have repeatedly ignored judges’ formal scoldings, which the activists say amounts to an obvious crime.

INTENSIVE CARE: Critics say Gov. Cuomo's underlings almost managed Long Island College Hospital to death.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“Order after order was entered, upheld, and violated by SUNY,” said Jim Walden, a lawyer for Public Advocate and Democratic mayoral nominee Bill DeBlasio, who has been arrested protesting the closure. “Holding a state agency in contempt of court is in my opinion the only thing that will make SUNY follow the law.”

Judge Baynes has scheduled a Nov. 18 hearing to decide on whether the state management team is in contempt of court after months of delays, Walden said, adding that he has witnesses lined up to testify that the state intentionally sabotaged the hospital and fraudulently paid former hospital operator Continuum Health Partners $2-million per month to handle billing, which he says Continuum never did.

In a second court case that could decide the fate of the beleaguered hospital — this one handled by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest — advocates plan to argue that the state has been sabotaging the institution since taking over in 2011.

The outcry continues despite the fact that the state allowed ambulances back at the hospital and is supposed to be out of the picture sometime soon due to a bombshell ruling by Demarest that stripped it of authority over the place.

Last week, Baynes-appointed hospital watchdog Jon Berall told this newspaper that the state took over the hospital as part of an “evil” plot to sell it to luxury developers and that a new operator might take over as soon as this week. The land beneath the institution could be worth as much as $500-million, according to real estate experts, but state officials claim to be losing millions every month keeping the doors open.

TEMPERATURE'S RISING: Bill DeBlasio wants state officials locked up for mishandling Long Island College Hospital.
Photo by Paul Martinka

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.