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Cross-prognosis for LICH - Corporation, staff feud over how to save it

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As the 150-year old Long Island College Hospital teeters on the brink of possible closure, the institution’s corporate parent and the medical staff remain at odds on how to save the facility.

The parent company, Continuum Health Partners, told pensive local residents, Community Board 6 members and hospital staff last week that the hospital will also shutter the pediatrics and dentistry units to keep it from going into bankruptcy.

The new unit closures come about two months after Continuum said they plan on closing the OB-GYN maternity ward to close a $40 million budget gap.

Their original restructuring plan was submitted to the state Department of Health (DOH), which must sign off on the plan to become effective.

DOH officials said the plan was submitted on Aug. 18, and the agency has 90 days from that date to render a decision..

At the CB 6 meeting, Continuum President and CEO Stanley Brezenoff indicated his displeasure at the DOH for not making a decision as of yet.

“The longer the state delays, the more anxious we will be,” he said. “I don’t see alternatives and we don’t have the luxury of a lot of time. You can’t pay workers or venders with IOUs.”

Part of the resturcturing plan includes selling several of LICH’s-owned buildings in the Cobble Hill/Brooklyn Heights neighborhood where it is located.

The restructureing also includes the closing of four grade school-based health programs that LICH opertates in the neighborhood.

Last year the hospital delivered some 2,800 babies and is on course to deliver about 2,200 this year.

According to LICH/Continuum spokesperson Zipporah Dvash, the Pediatric Inpatient Unit currently cares for 9-10 patients a day.

“In order for the service to achieve financial break-even, the census would have to run consistently at 12-14 patients. Although that might not sound like a significant difference, it adds up to a substantial financial burden,” she stated in a memo distributed to workers.

A LICH dentist said the dental clinic has about 12,000 visits a year from patients – many of which come from underserved communities and who are on Medicaid.

The dentist, as did several pediatricians interviewed for this story, would not give their names for fear of management retribution.

Meanwhile, the LICH medical staff, many of whom live in the community, last week submitted their own plan to the DOH for saving the hospital.

Under their plan, LICH would sever their relationship with Continuum, and create their own management team.

The group said the hospital currently pays Continuum $6 million annually to run the facility and they could find their own leadership at half the cost.

The medical staff also says they can save money by handling many billing and administrative services in-house, and partnering with other health care entities in the borough.

Last January, the medical staff also asked the DOH and the state Attorney General’s office to investigate Continuum amid their allegation that the partnership agreement signed with the hospital was a de facto merger.

The staff also alleged that Continuum was siphoning off funds for their sister affiliates in Manhattan including Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center.

At last week’s LICH campus meeting with CB 6 members, residents and hospital workers, Brezenoff vehemently denied the accusations.

“There is no diversion of resources from LICH to any other hospital. There has never been any diversion. There never will be,” said Brezenoff, his voice rising.

Brezenoff also rejected the LICH medical staff plan, saying, “We’re unlikely to sit down with them.”

DOH spokesperson Claudia Hutton said Continuum gave the agency their restructuring plan, but as of yet did not make a decision.

“They met with the community last night to explain their plans. We have not given them a decision on whether they can close their OB-GYN, pediatrics and dentistry departments,” said Hutton.

“I’m sure they [Continuum] feel we should have an answer right now, but we have to make sure it meets needs and adequate capacity of the community to close those services,” she added.

Hutton said the DOH looks at everything including travel patterns. The DOH owes it the community to do due diligence, she said.

Hutton noted that despite Continuum’s loud bark, it does not have the authority to close the hospital or make any restructuring moves unilaterally.

“We’ve determined quite a bit that we don’t accept their [an operator’s] decision, and often we’ve turned things down and the hospital comes out with another plan,” said Hutton.

“The Health Department is not afraid to say no to anybody when it’s merited,” she added.

Hutton said the DOH has also received and is reviewing the doctors’ plan, but the agency doesn’t have the authority to approve their plan as only the administrative operator [Continuum] has the right to make changes.

Several calls and emails to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to find out the progress of their investigation on the issue were unreturned.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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