Prognosis negative: LICH advocates slam Related, Fortis overhaul plans

News analysis: If LICH closes, housing towers could rise
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Activists against closing Long Island College Hospital do not agree on who should take over, but they know exactly who they don’t want — developers who would replace the hospital with a few doctor’s offices.

Hundreds of hospital employees, union reps, and Cobble Hill residents flooded the Saint Francis College Auditorium on Tuesday night to hear about the nine redevelopment proposals for the hospital, which will close in May if no one steps up to keep it running when state managers walk away. Audience members were reserved about which of the four hospital-included overhaul plans they approve of, but they made it clear that they think any plan calling for less than a full-service hospital is not worth the paper it is written on.

“I don’t care whether it’s Mohammed on the mountain who comes down and offers something less than a hospital — it doesn’t meet our needs,” said lawyer Jim Walden, who represented six community groups in a lawsuit against the state.

Anti-closure advocates reserved their loudest ire for the Related Companies–Brooklyn Hospital Center plan and the Fortis Property Group–New York University Langone Medical Center plan, both of which involve donors to Gov. Cuomo. Cuomo, as The Brooklyn Paper has documented, controls the State University of New York, whose representatives effectively have final say in choosing a buyer for the hospital.

The Brooklyn Hospital proposal drew jeers because it calls for just two urgent care centers on the site of the Cobble Hill medical center and two walk-in healthcare centers in Red Hook and Gowanus.

The audience collectively groaned as panelists read the outline by Fortis Property Group, which calls for an ambulatory surgery center and a cancer center. One hospital worker and speaker said he met with the company’s medical reps and they did not have a basic idea of the medical campus they hope to renovate.

Not settling: Jim Walden, an attorney who represented six community groups in a lawsuit against the state, said the community should not have anything less than a full-service hospital at a meeting on March 25.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

“The medical people had no clue of how many buildings were there and what could actually be done with the place,” said Tom Sorra, Concerned Physicians of LICH president.

Other staffers on hand said the Prime Healthcare Services pitch could be the light at the end of the tunnel. The California-based hospital management corporation’s proposal calls for opening a 100-bed hospital immediately in the existing medical buildings.

“That is attractive to me,” said New York State Nurses Association member Susan Shanahan. “We don’t like any proposals that close the hospital for any amount of time.”

Under a new bidding process created by a court settlement that ended a year-long lawsuit over the state’s effort to close the hospital without public input, plans will be evaluated based on a point system that weighs medical services as two-thirds of the score and the rest in terms of cash commitments. As part of the new system, a committee made up of Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook) and reps of the nurses unions and community groups that sued the state will have less than half the say in scoring the medical component of each plan and no weight in evaluating the financials.

The State University of New York could choose a plan at an April 3 board meeting, according to a university spokesman.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
Concerned in Cobble Hill: Neighbor Werner Kohn wondered about the strength of each bidder’s potential medical care.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham