LICH docs: We can save this hospital!

Baby bust!
The Brooklyn Paper / Mike McLaughlin

Disaffected doctors, nurses and technicians at financially troubled Long Island College Hospital say they can restore the Cobble Hill medical center to profitability without closing any departments or selling any real estate, as the hospital’s management says it must do to stay afloat.

The state Department of Health is reviewing the doctor’s alternative to a plan that LICH’s executives submitted to Albany this summer to shutter the maternity ward and unload two of the hospital’s oldest buildings on Henry Street to stem a deficit projected to reach $30 million this year.

The medical staff said on Thursday the state should dismiss the management’s proposal because it will lead to ruination of the 150-year-old institution.

“We see the restructuring plan as a continuation of what’s going on — the reduction of what was a premier hospital in Brooklyn into a shell of itself,” said Dr. Arnold Licht, the elected president of the medical team, at a press conference at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights.

The staff’s restructuring plans has several prongs, like severing its 10-year-old affiliation with Continuum Health Partners, LICH’s parent company, improving fee collection, lowering malpractice insurance rates and beginning an ambitious drive to reopen clinics around the borough.

These steps will save a few million dollars here, a few million there and — BOOM! — the hospital would be back in the black by the end of 2009. (It hasn’t been profitable for decades.)

“We could put the hospital on secure financial ground within 18 to 24 months,” Licht said.

The medical staff’s plan has some appeal for the cash-strapped state. If LICH succeeded in collecting more money owed by patients than Continuum has been, it would lower the amount of funding Albany would have to contribute to the ailing medical center.

The Department of Health said it is evaluating both proposals — not just the restructuring outlined by the hospital’s management.

“We take proposals from the doctors seriously,” said Claudia Hutton, an agency spokeswoman.

But Hutton did not know when the agency would make a decision about Long Island College Hospital’s future, because the schemes intricate.

“They’re weighty, complex documents,” she told The Brooklyn Paper.

Officials from Continuum did not have any specific qualms with the picture portrayed by the medical staff but remain convinced that the state would approve their plan.

“We are confident that the restructuring plan we have put forward is the best course of action [because] it is based on pragmatic means of reorganization,” said Zippi Dvash, a spokeswoman for the hospital. “We encourage the leadership of the medical staff to join us in moving ahead with a plan that is financially realistic for LICH.”

Executives from Continuum, including its president, Stanley Brezenoff, who is a well-connected former deputy mayor, will present their restructuring plan to Community Board 6 on Monday night.

Continuum President Stanley Brezenoff still thinks his restructuring plan is the best.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

The Community Board 6 executive committee will meet on Monday, Sept. 22 at, ironically, Long Island College Hospital (339 Hicks St., at Atlantic Avenue in Cobble Hill) at 6:30 pm. Call (718) 643-3027 for info.