Stat! Merger takes Long Island College Hospital off intensive care

More cutbacks at LICH
The Brooklyn Paper / Sebastian Kahnert

Long Island College Hospital’s financial malaise is about to run its course, thanks to an agreement that would merge it with another healthcare center, officials say.

LICH’s current operator, Continuum Health Partners, approved an agreement on Wednesday that would merge the Cobble Hill hospital with SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Crown Heights — effectively easing LICH’s fiscal woes and its tumultuous relationship with Continuum.

For the merger to be completed, the hospitals need only the state’s approval, which shouldn’t be too difficult given LICH’s circumstances: in 2008, the 150-year-old medical center proposed closing its maternity, pediatrics and dentistry divisions in a last-ditch effort to ward off complete financial ruin and chip away at $170 million in debt. The hospital also fired or laid off at least 300 employees, and sold several buildings.

Hospital officials promise that the merger will turn the waning tide — not only will finances stabilize, but new programs will be available and the two campuses will make the hospital more accessible, LICH officials told Community Board 2 recently.

SUNY officials didn’t return calls for comment, but elected officials who rallied behind LICH after its near-closure are excited.

“[The merger] is a vital step in truly preserving LICH,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights). “I look forward to thoroughly reviewing the details of the merger plan and working together to make a community-friendly solution a reality.”

The details of the agreement are still unclear, so it’s also unclear whether LICH doctors will back the plan. Back when the merger was just an idea, they openly worried about being passed along to yet another parent company.

“What we don’t like is that there are negotiations going on that we’re not part of,” medical staff President Dr. Arnold Licht, a critic of Continuum, said at the time. “We don’t like the idea of them just handing us over to someone else. What we want is a relationship predicated on two partners negotiating and making sure there are benefits for both sides.”

LICH officials said more information would be available once the state takes a closer look at the agreement, and for no there is no official timeline on the merger.