EXCLUSIVE: Layoffs threatened at LICH

LICH protesters block traffic, get arrested
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Some 300 to 350 Long Island College hospital staffers are going to be handed pink slips soon, according to a union rep.

The State University of New York confirmed it is planning to lay off workers at the beleaguered hospital it spent a year trying to close and is now in the process of selling off, but said it has not finalized the details of when it will drop the ax or how many nurses and others will be affected. The state said that the culling has to happen because the medical center has loads of empty beds.

“There are currently over 1,400 employees on the payroll at a facility that serves a limited number of patients,” State University of New York spokesman David Doyle said.

Anti-hospital-closure activists have long contested the notion that the Cobble Hill medical center is over-staffed, pointing out that the number of patients was roughly on par with staffing levels before state managers moved to close the hospital and barred ambulances in July 2013.

Staffers received warning notices about the layoffs when community groups and unions reached a settlement with the state over a lawsuit aimed at halting the closure, a Service Employees International Union 1199 representative said. The state reopened bidding over the redevelopment of the hospital as part of the settlement, giving community and union reps some say in evaluating the proposals. The 1199 union chapter knew that the hospital could close in May if no buyer steps up to take it over, but said the cuts on the table are too much to take, one of its spokesmen said.

“We are hopeful that the new [bidding] process will ensure continuity and even enhancement of care for the community surrounding LICH,” said 1199 honcho Kevin Finnegan in a statement. “However, we are dismayed that SUNY has chosen to deliver layoff notices to so many workers.”

Officials from that union and the state would not say what specifically the warnings state or who would be affected. The New York State Nurses Association, which also represents Long Island College Hospital workers, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Cobble Hill Association member Jeff Strabone, an anti-closure activist, emphasized that there would have been even more layoffs if union attorneys had not fought tooth and nail against the state.

The development firm MedDev, which says it has represented healthcare clients including the State University of New York and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, is planning to make a pitch to overhaul the Cobble Hill medical facility.

Under the new bidding process, 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.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Hemorrhaging: Between 300 and 350 Long Island College Hospital staffers could be losing their jobs.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini