Doc-ument details new $204-million LICH medical center

Time flies! We run back the clock on 2014

It is just not what this doctor ordered.

The medical center that took over the emergency department at the former Long Island College Hospital campus in Cobble Hill will shell out $204 million to build a new four-story facility on the corner of Atlantic and Hicks streets, which will include a cancer center, outpatient surgery center, and a imaging facility, according to new state filings.

But one local physician says the plans for the new center, which will have limited tools to treat really sick patients and will have to send many of them off to other hospitals, would be better suited to Brooklyn, Iowa.

“It’s totally inadequate,” said Brooklyn Heights doctor Jon Berall, a former court-appointed watchdog charged with monitoring the old hospital and a longtime opponent of the development plans at the site. “This is what is done in war zones or in rural America, not in sophisticated Downtown settings.”

New York University’s Langone Medical Center took over the Amity Street emergency department at the hospital complex in October last year, after the infirmary’s former owner pulled the plug on the broader hospital and sold it to a luxury housing developer. Langone hospital honchos intend to start building the new facility on the corner of Atlantic and Hicks streets later this year, and filed an application (embedded below) with the state Department of Health on July 20 revealing details of their plans, which include:

• A new emergency department on the first floor, which will include two inpatient beds for those who need to stay the night, as well as 10 patient bays, two resuscitation room, two triage rooms, a decontamination room, and 12 other treatment spaces.

• An outpatient surgery center on the third floor, with four operating rooms and two endoscopy rooms (that’s where they stick a camera up or down one of your orifices).

• A cancer center on the fourth floor with space for 22 patients, plus a pharmacy, and a laboratory.

• A diagnostic imaging center — for X-rays and other tech that looks inside patients — on the cellar level of the new building.

The hospital claims its new center will employ 400 people, including approximately 70 doctors, and plans to have the new outpost up and running by 2018.

Langone says it has treated about 4,400 patients at the Amity Street emergency room since it took over last November, which is the equivalent of 10,600 a year — a significant drop from 58,000 patients the state says visited Long Island College Hospital in 2012. But one healthcare expert says it is still better than nothing, and hospital-free emergency departments are becoming increasingly common as hospitals around the nation downsize and close.

“It has the potential to provide high-quality emergency care and is almost certainly preferable to having no emergency department in the community following a hospital closure,” said Laura Burke, an emergency medicine instructor at the Harvard University-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who has studied the rise of freestanding emergency departments.

But Berall claims the emergency department is little more than a glorified urgent-care center. Doctors there have the ability to stabilize critically ill patients before sending them off to another hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman, but local residents suffering heart attacks or strokes would be better-off traveling further to a real hospital than jumping from bed to bed, Berall claims.

“When someone has a stroke, the last thing you want to be doing is moving them around and risking that their blood pressure and pulse is going to go up,” said Berall, who used to work in the emergency room at Long Island College Hospital. “This is not what Downtown Brooklyn requires.”

In other Long Island College Hospital news, a judge on Thursday finalized the sale of the hospital campus from the State University of New York system to developer Fortis Property Group, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. The developer, which paid $240 million for the site, plans to erect several towers of luxury housing on its newly-acquired land, including one high-rise of at least 40 stories.

Crain’s New York was first to report the new application.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Doctor nay: Dr. Jon Berall says the new medical center at the former Long Island College Hospital site will be no replacement for the old one.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini