Judge: Open the books on LICH

News analysis: If LICH closes, housing towers could rise
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Days after supporters of Long Island College Hospital demanded that its owner, the State University of New York, open the books on the hospital to make sure the purported effort to sell it is genuine, a judge has ordered the university to provide the court with a full accounting of its finances.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest’s June 27 order requires SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which administers the Cobble Hill hospital, to disclose all financial and property-related activity since taking it over two years ago. Contrary to the demands of the hospital’s supporters, however, the state university need only disclose the financial information to Justice Demarest, not release it to the public.

The university must report the current ownership of any property transferred from the hospital, which sits on real estate worth an estimated $500 million, as well as account for any cash shifted from the 155-year-old institution since the takeover.

It must also account for all income generated and operating costs since 2011, and the use of $15 million the state withdrew from the hospital’s liability fund, which Demarest allowed last year on the condition that it be earmarked exclusively for Long Island College Hospital’s continued operation.

Furthermore, the university was asked to submit lists of all medical and non-medical staff currently employed at the hospital, and at the time of the takeover, as well as an account of how patients have used the hospital’s facilities and the number of patients that have been served.

The state has until Aug. 5 to comply.

It was Demarest who approved the state university’s takeover of the struggling hospital in 2011, on the condition that the hospital’s operations would continue.

In her order, Demarest cited the state’s public acknowledgment of its intention to close Long Island College Hospital, and recent moves to that end despite a restraining order from another judge to maintain services and staff.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes issued a temporary restraining order requiring the university to maintain adequate staffing levels to remain fully functional, and is currently weighing whether the state is in contempt of court after a controversial June 19 decision to begin diverting ambulances from Long Island College Hospital’s emergency room.

The university claimed that action came only after the state university hospital system’s top doctor determined that the exodus of medical staff from the floundering hospital made it impossible to safely accept new patients.

“The chief medical officer of all our hospitals has determined that patient care and safety cannot be ensured by continuing to send patients to that hospital,” said hospital spokesman Robert Bellafiore.