Docs: LICH prognosis negative

Docs: LICH prognosis negative
The Brooklyn Paper / Sebastian Kahnert

Medical staff at Long Island College Hospital say the only way to save their institution’s body is to cut off its head.

To rescue LICH from mounting financial losses and declining patient visits some doctors and nurses say the hospital should sever its connection with Continuum Health Partners, the company that manages LICH and several Manhattan hospitals.

LICH doctors and other staffers have filed a complaint with the state Department of Health to terminate their affiliation with Continuum and were joined by members of Brooklyn’s congressional delegation and other elected officials in a protest on hospital ground in the sweltering heat on Monday.

Critics say that Cobble Hill’s venerable medical facility has been on a steady decline since it joined Continuum in 1998, during a wave of mergers and affiliations across the country.

LICH now has a $35-million deficit on this year’s $330-million budget, a sign, staffers say, that the 150-year-old hospital is headed towards bankruptcy.

“After 10 years [with Continuum], our current financial difficulty is far worse,” said Dr. Arnold Licht, president of the hospital’s medical staff.

Continuum’s sale of hospital real estate, including five clinics, to offset losses is a recipe for continued shrinkage of services and revenue for the hospital, Licht said of the 506-bed facility.

“I do envision them downsizing us further to a hospital of 200 beds, which would operate without any of the stuff that we were renowned for,” such as its OBGYN and urology centers, Licht told The Brooklyn Paper.

Continuum denies that it has plans to shutter the hospital and said that many hospitals do not run at full capacity because of the shift towards outpatient care, rather than lengthy hospital stays for patients.

The health care giant also defended the sale of neighborhood clinics, including one near Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope that had more than 40,000 patient visits per year, because such clinics increased the financial strain on LICH.

“These are physician practices that were struggling,” said Jim Mandler, a Continuum spokesman.

Other sold properties include the landmark Lamm Institute building on Amity Street in Cobble Hill, which netted $6.1 million; the former Longshoremen’s medical center on Court Street in Carroll Gardens, which LICH used for its nursing and radiology schools until last year, when the building sold for $24 million; and several neighborhood brownstone houses — all done to narrow the gap between revenue and expenses.

“When [a] real-estate holding is no longer going to be used for the provision of medical services, it behooves the hospital to divest themselves of the holding,” said Mandler.

The staff remains unconvinced, firing off a complaint to Attorney General Cuomo in January that Continuum has mismanaged the hospital’s funds, including a $100-million bequest that was allegedly siphoned off to other branches of Continuum.

Neighbors don’t want to see the facility go down the tubes.

“We want this to be the best possible hospital because if you have an emergency, this is where you’re going to go,” said Cobble Hill Association member Margaret Ablon, whose daughter gave birth to two children in LICH.