Hasta la vista, babies

Hasta la vista, babies
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Cash-strapped Long Island College Hospital wants to close its popular, but costly, maternity department and will sell off additional property to reduce its deficit and pay down a $170-million debt.

Top executives of the Manhattan-based Continuum Health Partners, which owns the beleaguered Cobble Hill medical facility, announced the obstetrics shutdown on Wednesday as the latest phase of what could be a lengthy “restructuring.”

“We are taking this approach because not to do so would leave LICH in even greater jeopardy and bring about far more adverse consequences,” said Continuum President and CEO Stanley Brezenoff, a former deputy mayor and former head of the Port Authority.

Last week, Continuum announced that LICH President and CEO Rita Battles had resigned — though it appeared that she was fired in a dispute over the direction of the coming restructuring.

Brezenoff said the reorganization plan would allow LICH to remain “a community hospital” focussing mainly on internal medicine, surgery and emergency visits.

Last year, LICH had 22,830 patients — and delivered 2,800 babies.

Cutting the cord on its obstetrics department follows a number of other cost-cutting measures at the hospital. Earlier this summer, LICH closed its rape victims counseling clinic, and has raised $24 million by selling off some real-estate holdings, including the landmark Lamm Institute at the corner of Amity and Henry streets.

Now the hospital is also planning to sell the Polhemus Building across the street and an administrative building at 97 Amity St.

Continuum officials said that LICH’s financial woes are part of a larger health care crisis that has ruined urban hospitals, like Victory Memorial Hospital in Bay Ridge, which closed as a hospital to live on only as an outpatient facility.

But medical staff at LICH said their hospital’s financial problems have been exacerbated by mismanagement.

“The medical staff of Long Island College Hospital views Continuum’s plan to ‘reorganize’ the hospital as an admission of abject failure to manage a hospital that was … providing quality health care for 150 years,” Dr. Arnold Licht, president of the medical staff, said in a statement.

The obstetrics department operates at an $11-million loss and carries high malpractice expenses, Brezenoff said. But it does have something money can’t buy: a solid reputation.

“I’ve come here for prenatal care, regular checkups, delivery, everything. I live in Bed-Stuy and I would have gone to Woodhull, but I figured I’d get better care here,” said Tamica Goodchild, who was at the hospital on Wednesday with her 4-month-old daughter Ariel. “Some of my family had good experiences here. I have no complaints with my doctors.”

The restructuring plan could reduce the number of hospital beds from the current 500 down to 250. Shuttering the OB-GYN ward requires state Department of Health approval.

— with Michael Lipkin