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Hospital boss: We’ll close peds and dentistry wings, too! LICH in deep trouble

Hasta la vista, babies
Stanley Brezenoff, president of Continuum Health Partners, which owns the beleaguered Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill, presented a restructing plan for the medical center on Wednesday. Phase I? Close the obstetrics department.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Ailing Long Island College Hospital suffered another blow on Monday when its management said it must close the pediatrics and dentistry departments to avert collapse — though a hospital spokeswoman denied a report that the Cobble Hill institution would completely shutter by the end of the year.

Less than two months after officials of Manhattan-based Continuum Health Partners, which controls LICH, announced that they needed to close the maternity ward to trim costs, they revealed that their “restructuring” plan required deeper cuts to close what they now predict will be a $40-million budget hole.

“I cannot go through the rest of the year without relief,” Stanley Brezenoff, president and CEO of Continuum, told a rapt crowd of doctors, nurses and community residents at a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday night on the hospital’s campus.

After the Daily News interpreted Brezenoff’s comments to mean that the hospital would close by January, LICH spokeswoman Zippi Dvash said the hospital czar was playing hardball with state regulators, who must approve any cutbacks in services.

“He said that to send a message to the state to please respond to our restructuring plan immediately,” said Dvash, denying that the hospital would close if the state fails to act.

Yet Brezenoff did paint a bleak picture of the 150-year-old Cobble Hill hospital’s finances.

“We’re all anxious about this,” Brezenoff said. “The situation is deteriorating.”

Before announcing the closing of the maternity ward earlier this summer, Continuum had sold off several hospital buildings and shuttered some satellite clinics in a desperate bid to raise cash.

Doctors and nurses saw the newest proposed cutbacks looming from the moment Continuum announced the closing of the maternity ward.

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said one nurse, mentioning that the hospital administration could explain away the pediatrics closure because there would no longer be a maternity ward to bring children into the world.

Others said the expanded cutbacks will cause LICH’s total demise.

“Nobody wants to believe they’re going to close down this hospital, but as more and more of these decisions are made, it becomes obvious that that’s their plan,” said a pediatrician who wanted to keep his name from management.

With criticism at his back and the cash shortfall mounting, Brezenoff upbraided the state for not yet responding to Continuum’s plan to discontinue the maternity wing. Albany’s slow response, he said, was costing the hospital precious money.

“We cannot accept a negative response or a continued deferred decision from the state,” he said.

But state officials said that reviewing a plan to close a department that birthed 2,800 babies last year was not as simple as grading a learner’s permit test at the DMV.

“We have an obligation to the community to analyze this kind of major change to health care services, and to examine the impact on the community and whether there’s enough capacity [at other area hospitals] to absorb the loss of maternity, pediatrics and dental,” said Department of Health spokeswoman Claudia Hutton.

Brezenoff’s ire rose over the course of the lengthy community board meeting. The former deputy mayor to Ed Koch and head of the Port Authority was dogged by recurring allegations that Continuum had siphoned funds from LICH to its more prestigious Manhattan sister hospitals, including Beth Israel Medical Center.

He vehemently denied the accusations.

“There is no diversion of resources from LICH to any other hospital. There has never been any diversion. There never will be,” he said, his voice rising.

The announcement of further cutbacks comes just days after the medical staff proposed its own plan to the state. LICH staffers asked Albany to sever the 10-year affiliation between LICH and Continuum, which would enable the newly independent hospital to reorganize its back office functions, halt program cuts and actually turn a profit next year.

Brezenoff rejected calls to consider the alternative plan.

A complete story about the medical staff proposal is online at BrooklynPaper.com.

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