LICH PITCH: Learning on the job

LICH PITCH: Learning on the job
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Three words do not come to mind when imagining the job description for taking over as manager of Long Island College Hospital: no experience necessary.

And yet that is what one suitor in the state’s controversydogged bidding process for the beleaguered Cobble Hill facility said when asked about his lack of hospital management credentials. Two doctors’ professional organizations hope to overhaul the hospital with grocery tycoon and mayoral also-ran John Catsimatidis and former Giuliani understudy Rudy Washington. An executive for the two groups said that his skills at wrangling physicians are qualification enough.

“No experience is needed,” said Harry Chen, head of the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization and vice president of the Eastern Chinese American Physician Independent Practice Association, “because we manage about 240 physicians in our accountable care organization and our partnership with the [independent practice association] totals about 400.”

The Organization is a networking and training group for physicians and the Associations is a kind of doctors’ cooperative. Both are specifically geared towards Chinese-American medical professionals and docs who work with Chinese patients.

For the sake of brevity and levity, we are calling the pairing of the Chinese-oriented organizations and the former politicos the “Chinese democracy plan.” The plan is the only of the five on the table that includes an actual hospital. The others call for housing and stores with a medical component. Chen said that, with all the sick people his groups encounter, there will be no danger of empty beds.

“We as an organization would encourage our providers to bring the patients back [to Long Island College Hospital] and add more high-quality service to the campus,” he said.

Anti-hospital-closure activists have contested the notion that the Cobble Hill medical center has many empty beds, pointing out that the number of patients is roughly on par with staffing levels.

The proposed redevelopment would slash the number of beds from 506 to between 100 and 125, with a stated goal of increasing the number to 250 within a few years of opening, but would retain current staffers.

It would also overhaul the hospital’s many departments, turning some in-patient floors into a nursing home and rehab facility and possibly turning over medical units to retailers.

“We might have [stores] to improve traffic to the area, but it’s not necessary,” said Chen.

The plan includes an emergency room. Four others include “emergency departments,” but given that the Chinese democracy plan is the only one that features any kind of hospital, it is hard to comprehend how the others are anything more than urgent care centers, which take ambulances but do not admit patients overnight.

The pitch also proposes restructuring the cardiology, obstetrics, gastroenterology, hepatitis, interventional radiology, and oncology departments and possibly starting an Alzheimer’s treatment center.

Under the plan, the healthcare facility would remain a teaching hospital run with the help of the State University of New York, which has spent the last year trying to shutter the facility. The system would continue educating medical students teaching and training residents in departments including internal medicine, surgery, emergency medicine, obstetrics, and gynecology.

Catsimatidis, who made his billions with the supermarket chain Gristedes and reported subsequent real estate and energy investments and lost to Joe Lhota by a landslide in the 2013 Republican mayoral primary, has agreed to finance the revamp alongside Washington, the former deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani who is reportedly now a development consultant. The “final details are being worked out,” said a Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization spokeswoman last week.

Chen insists that, despite his team’s acknowledged lack of hospital-running chops, its blueprint is the only one that is financially sustainable.

“This hospital has a long record of losing money, clearly,” Chen said. “We can provide good quality and low-cost care.”

This is the first in a series of articles profiling the five proposals for redeveloping Long Island College Hospital.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Cats scan: Billionaire John Catsimatidis has put his money behind this plan to revamp Long Island College Hospital.