Reporter’s Notebook: Cuomo will decide LICH’s future

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Earlier this month, when Gov. Cuomo warned President Obama that Brooklyn’s hospitals were in crisis, the question on the minds of many of the residents fighting the planned closure of Long Island College Hospital was “What took him so long?”

Those hoping to save the hospital, which was scheduled to close this month before its operator, the State University of New York, shifted gears and decided to sell it to another hospital rather than real estate developers, wanted the governor to step in from the outset of the crisis.

“I don’t know if anyone really knows what’s going through Andrew Cuomo’s mind,” said Roy Sloane, an advocate for the hospital and the head of the Cobble Hill Association. “Everybody is telling me that he pulls all the strings and makes all the decisions.”

The fact is Cuomo appoints 15 of the 18 members of the state university board of trustees, which voted to close the Cobble Hill hospital, and he appointed Nirav Shah, the commissioner of the Department of Health, who would ultimately be responsible for rubber stamping the hospital’s closure — undoubtedly with Cuomo’s blessing.

Cuomo claims in his letter to Obama’s Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius that if the state doesn’t get $10 billion, Long Island College, its sister hospital SUNY Downstate in East Flatbush, Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Brookdale Medical Center in Brownsville could all be shuttered. The request for federal funds to ward off Brooklyn’s looming hospital implosion could be a sign that the governor actually wants LICH to survive.

So if a Long Island College Hospital closure was in the cards, what changed the governor’s mind? And what is his plan for the hospital now?

Sloane suggested that Cuomo might only be speaking out now because he has his eye on the presidency, and has decided that letting this hospital fail will come back to haunt him.

Other advocates were simply glad Cuomo finally broke his silence, claiming he is at least speaking up for the troubled Brooklyn institution.

“Gov. Cuomo is showing incredible leadership in helping to save LICH and keep Brooklyn hospitals open for care,” said Jill Furillo, the executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. “The governor and his staff are really going to bat in Washington to get the funding that Brooklyn hospitals need.”

That may be true, but if Long Island College Hospital is to be saved, it will take more than Gov. Cuomo stepping up to the plate.

Because he is not just a player in this game, he is the manager, general manager, and owner.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

Long Island College Hospital
Photo by Stefano Giovannini