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EXCLUSIVE: 600 LICH workers to be laid off in April - Brooklyn Paper

EXCLUSIVE: 600 LICH workers to be laid off in April

If the state opts to close Long Island College Hospital, its campus will become a hot commodity for housing developers, real estate experts say.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Nearly half of Long Island College Hospital’s staff will be out of a job by April, the State University of New York confirmed today.

The state, freed from a court order that prohibited it from making any moves to reduce service levels at the hospital now that lawsuits against it have been settled, is axing about 600 of its 1,400 employees including nurses, doctors, technicians, patient care associates, and support services staff, according to a state spokesman. The number is double what a union rep predicted the day prior. An anti-closure activist said the staffers fought a good fight.

“The unions’ negotiators did their best to defend their members’ jobs,” said Jeff Strabone, board member of the Cobble Hill Association, which sued the state along with other community groups to halt the shuttering of the medical center. “The community salutes the courageous [New York State Nurses Association] and [Service Employees International Union 1199] workers who stayed at their posts. They deserve better.”

But one hospital staffer said that Mayor DeBlasio, the unions, and the community groups double-crossed the workers when they agreed to settle with the state.

“The staff at LICH feel the ‘Save LICH’ fight was over as soon as NYSNA and the community signed the agreement with SUNY.” said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous. “There was no victory and we feel like the unions the mayor and the community sold us out.”

The massive personnel cuts are an effort to bring staffing levels in line with the amount of patients being seen, said State University of New York rep David Doyle, claiming that the hospital’s service will not be affected by the loss.

A lawyer who represented six community groups in a lawsuit against the state, as well as reps for the Service Employees International Union 1199 and the New York State Nurses Association, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The pink slips were expected, but the number of cuts is too much to bear, an 1199 rep said last week.

Anti-closure advocates have long argued that the medical center is not overstaffed and that patient levels were proportionate to the number of staff before the state stopped admitting patients and diverted ambulances in July 2013.

The hospital has 506 beds but currently houses only 39 in-patients, according to Doyle.

The layoffs come as part of the settlement reached between anti-closure activists and the state that reopened the bidding process for the beleaguered hospital and allows the state to walk away from the hospital in May whether or not a buyer steps up to take the place over.

A pack of five bidders were vying to redevelop the hospital as a luxury housing complex with a medical component — only one planned to keep it a hospital — before bidding was reopened. Developers and medical executives now have until March 19 to submit new proposals.

Under the new bidding process created by the settlement, plans will be evaluated based on a point system that weighs medical services as two-thirds of the score and assesses the rest in terms of financial commitments. State reps will determine a majority of the score, but are not supposed to consult each other in the process, according to the terms of the settlement. A committee made up of Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D—Red Hook) and representatives of the nurses unions and community groups that sued the state will have less than half the say in scoring the medical category and none in scoring the financials.

Strabone said that he hopes someone will step up to the plate who is willing to keep the hospital a hospital.

“The best we can do for them now is to impress upon the bidders that LICH remains viable and necessary as a full-service hospital,” he said.

The development firm MedDev, which says it represents healthcare clients such as the State University of New York and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, is planning to make a pitch for the hospital.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.

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