Long Island College Hospital will be closed and padlocked by Sunday on orders of state officials who care little for the health and well-being of Brooklynites in the midst of an excruciating heat wave, claim hospital workers.
Employees at the 155-year-old Cobble Hill institution claim that management at the State University of New York has been transferring patients out of the hospital, effectively closing it, and told them to clean out their lockers.
“By Sunday, the hospital will not have any patients in it, so for all intents and purposes the hospital will be closed,” said Jill Furillo, the head of the New York State Nurses Association who adding the timing of the closure couldn’t be worse. “This is the worst heat wave that the borough has had in the last 20 years and they are transferring patients out. It’s unconscionable.”
As of Thursday, there were only 18 patients left in the hospital according to state officials.
The scene outside was dramatic, as crowds of staff, along with Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) and mayoral hopeful Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio (D) gathered to demand that the medical center not be closed, accusing the state of plotting to sell the extremely valuable property it sits on to developers, to be turned into luxury housing.
“Save LICH!” they chanted. “No more condos for the rich!”
State officials have denied that the hospital will be closed before Monday.
“I think there is intentional misinformation being put out there in an effort to make a scene,” said Robert Bellafiore, a spokesman for the state university, who said that the hospital is not closing — just removing patients who consent to be transferred.
Still, rumors spread rapidly. After being told by supervisors that the hospital would be closing, then by the state that this was a lie, doctors and nurses weren’t sure what to believe — and some wondered if it was all a game being played by the state to force workers to quit their jobs and find a more secure place to work.
“I think they want us to leave and close the hospital for them,” said Dr. Alice Garner. “It’s emotional warfare.”
Many wondered if they would still have a job next week.
But Bellafiore said that the state needed to go through a union process to fire hospital employees, and that any news of layoffs was “nonsense.”
He added that the emergency room would stay open to walk-in patients.
The state has been trying to close Long Island College Hospital for the past six months. During that time, hospital workers won a temporary restraining order against the state to keep it open — only to have a judge rule the state defied that restraining order by diverting ambulances away from the hospital. The state will appear in a contempt of court hearing next week.
The State Department of Health, which has the final say on an “official” hospital closure, received the state’s closure plan and it is now under review, according to spokesman Jeffrey Hammond.
Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.