Doctors: We have an antidote for Long Island College Hospital’s imminent demise

Doctors: We have an antidote for Long Island College Hospital’s imminent demise
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Doctors at Long Island College Hospital say they may have found a way to stave off the facility’s imminent demise — getting the State University of New York to sell the institution to a buyer that will keep it open.

Two large institutions have expressed interest in buying the Cobble Hill hospital from the university, said Dr. Douglas Sepkowitz, the chief of infectious diseases at Long Island College Hospital.

“I’m not at liberty to say what those institutions are,” Sepkowitz said. “But they’re big. You’ve heard of them.”

Doctors — led by Dr. Mike Atallah, the president of the medical staff at the hospital — approached several outside institutions within the past week, asking if any would be interested in buying the 155-year-old hospital, which faces a vote on its closure tomorrow by the State University board.

Several of those institutions responded favorably — and some have since had preliminary talks about cutting a life-saving deal, Sepkowitz said.

The board of trustees for the State University of New York, which bought Long Island College Hospital in 2011, is all but certain to vote to shutter the Cobble Hill institution at the end of this week, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center president Dr. John Williams told docs Monday. The state could then sell the property of a developer for as much as $500 million.

Williams made his case for closing the hospital at a public meeting of the university board in Manhattan on Thursday, but the crowd – raucous and several hundred strong – wasn’t having it.

When Williams showed the mostly pro-hospital attendees a slideshow presentation with the heading “Why Close LICH?” the attendees, led by Local 1199 Service Employees International Union member Henry Singleton, began chanting “Why?” and “Postpone the Vote!”

“Doctor!” Singleton shouted when he was asked to quiet down. “Won’t you kiss my ass?”

At least once, board members threatened to adjourn the meeting due to the frequent, angry interruptions.

Medical workers and hospital supporters said that the State University should postpone the Friday morning vote and allow time to explore the preliminary offers.

“We should postpone this vote and come up with a plan to save LICH,” said Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), speaking to a demonstration outside a State University public meeting about the plan to close the hospital. “We don’t need another condo in Brooklyn.”

Doctors cited another reason to give careful consideration before the board votes on closure.

“People may die because of this decision,” Sepkowitz said.

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