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LICH DEAD UPDATE: State approves closure plan, hospital says judge’s order to keep it open will be ignored – Brooklyn Paper

LICH DEAD UPDATE: State approves closure plan, hospital says judge’s order to keep it open will be ignored

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

Long Island College Hospital is dead.

The state Department of Health on Friday approved the plan to close the 155-year-old Cobble Hill institution — concluding a long battle by the state to close the institution for good — and hospital officials say a judge’s temporary restraining order demanding the hospital stay open will be ignored. That state agency, which is controlled by Gov. Cuomo, has the final say on whether a New York hospital can close.

The hospital’s doctors will be fired in about 30 days, according to an e-mail sent out Friday morning from a hospital administrator, and the Department of Health, which has the power to keep the hospital open or allow it to close, authorized the state to stop admitting patients from its emergency department starting at noon today, and to close the department altogether on July 29. All patients should be transferred out by July 28, according to a statement the Department of Health sent to the administrators, and elective surgeries should be canceled and rescheduled by today.

By Friday, hospital officials were letting employees know they may get fired.

“When the date is set sometime next week or so, physicians will be given a 30-day notice of termination,” according to an e-mail from a hospital department head sent Friday morning.

The State University of New York, which owns and runs the hospital, has been trying to shutter it for the past six months.

Friday’s order, issued by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, barred the state from diverting ambulances from the hospital or taking any other action that hampers the ability of Long Island College Hospital to provide medical services.

But the move is by no means bulletproof. The state has already broken restraining orders barring them from touching the hospital, and administrators said that they weren’t sure the restraining order was valid.

“When we get the papers, we’ll do a full review, including whether this suit is even legal,” said Robert Bellafiore, a spokesman for the state university, on Friday. “In the meantime, we’re moving forward as planned.”

By Saturday, the State University notified hospital workers that it was appealing the restraining order – meaning that it could resume transferring patients from the hospital and diverting ambulances legally, Bellafiore said today.

This was contested by hospital advocates, who said that the hospital was acting illegally.

“SUNY must stop pretending that they are above the law,” said Linda O’Neil, a registered nurse at the hospital.

As of Monday, there are only 12 patients left at the hospital, according to Bellafiore.

Bellafiore said that the termination e-mail was only preparing people for the possibility of getting fired. It was not an actual mass layoff, he said, which could be a violation of state laws governing hospital closures.

“Organizations have meetings all the time to discuss things that may happen in the future. It’s called planning,” he said.

On Thursday, hospital workers said that they had heard the plug was finally getting pulled on Long Island College Hospital. At the time, Bellafiore said they were lying.

“I think there is intentional misinformation being put out there in an effort to make a scene,” he said, adding that the hospital was only removing patients who consent to be transferred.

He had also said Thursday that any news of layoffs was “nonsense.”

Hospital workers said the actions by the state were unconscionable.

“SUNY has created a healthcare meltdown in Brooklyn — putting patients at extreme risk,” said Jill Furillo, the executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, which represents many nurses at the hospital.

The state’s plan to close Long Island College Hospital will turn a swath of Cobble Hill into a real estate gold mine that would give developers their three favorite things: location, location, and location, and some say the sale of its property could net the state $500 million.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

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