Life support! Cuomo releases funds for Long Island College Hospital merger

More cutbacks at LICH
The Brooklyn Paper / Sebastian Kahnert

Long Island College Hospital is off the critical list.

Gov. Cuomo told state lawmakers late on Friday that his administration would honor a commitment made by his predecessor and release $62 million in grants to allow the beleaguered, debt-riddled medical center to merge with SUNY Downstate.

Officials at the Cobble Hill hospital had threatened last week to declare bankruptcy in March if the money — and the merger — did not come through. That threat set off a wave of lobbying by local elected officials, urging the new governor to make good on then-Gov. Paterson’s promise.

As a result, locals were hailing Cuomo on Saturday.

“Gov. Cuomo’s decision is great news … for all Brooklynites whose lives and good health depend on LICH remaining open,” Borough President Markowitz said. “Thanks to members of the community and elected officials who raised their voices and were heard loud and clear in Albany, jobs have been saved and LICH can continue its tradition of keeping Brooklyn families healthy at every stage of life.”

The grant money is meant to offset some of the hospital’s $170-million debt and enable the merger with SUNY Downstate in Crown Heights.

It was all thrown up in the air on Thursday, when the state Department of Health indicated that it would delay the grant — prompting the president of LICH’s parent company to tell employees that he was preparing bankruptcy papers.

The merger with SUNY Downstate was seen as LICH’s last glimmer of hope. In 2008, its budget was so bad that Continuum Health Partners proposed closing its maternity, pediatrics and dentistry divisions. The hospital also fired and laid off about 300 employees and sold several buildings.