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LICH cash woes came on so quickly

The Brooklyn Paper
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Long Island College Hospital’s parent company says it must immediately close its maternity, pediatrics and dentistry wings or risk a complete collapse — yet an audit just one year earlier revealed no sign of trouble.

Now, elected officials are howling at the apparent bait and switch by the Manhattan-based Continuum Health Partners, which owns the hospital.

“Public officials and others [could] potentially have helped prevent such sudden, drastic cutbacks” if they had been told earlier of LICH’s problems, said Borough President Markowitz in a statement.

Councilman Bill DeBlasio echoed the Beep in his frustration.

“It’s dissappointing that LICH was not open about its financial difficulties when they first arose,” the Park Slope Democrat said.

The pols’ comments come after being shown the rosy 2006 and dire 2007 audits, both of which were obtained by The Brooklyn Paper.

The 2006 audit by Pricewater­houseCoopers made no mention of an imminent financial disaster, nor did it call for closing any divisions. But one year later, the same auditing firm suddenly decided that the institution was teetering on the brink of total collapse.

“Cash flows and operating results for the foreseeable future will be substantially below levels necessary for LICH to satisfy its future commitments,” the audit said. “These circumstances create substantial doubt about LICH’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Citing that audit, Continuum now says it must close the three wings.

Amid all the confusion about LICH’s finances, Markowitz also complained that Continuum has rebuffed efforts by outsiders, including elected officials, and the hospital’s own staff, to rescue the doomed departments.

Hospital officials blamed the sudden collapse of the institution on a “significant reduction in [patient] volume” and “out-of-control malpractice costs in New York State,” said hospital spokeswoman Zippi Dvash.

If last year was bad, 2008 looks even worse, according to Continuum, which claims that LICH will lose more than $40 million if the state does not permit it to shut its maternity, pediatrics and dentistry departments.

As part of its plan to eliminate the pediatrics wing, LICH is requesting permission to divert child emergencies to other hospitals, though it would still treat children needing immediate attention until they can be stabilized and transferred.

The medical staff says the catastrophe facing LICH now is the outcome of Continuum’s mismanagement. Doctors and nurses have petitioned the state to dissolve the bonds between the 150-year-old medical center and the parent company.

Also: LICH stonewalls Feds

At the same time, the medical center is stonewalling federal officials who have demanded to know how the troubled Cobble Hill institution will get back on stable financial ground.

Continuum has ignored a demand request from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to devise a rescue plan so that the hospital does not default on $143 million in infrastructure loans that HUD is insuring.

“Unfortunat­ely, LICH has only submitted an outline of a turnaround strategy, but has not yet presented a fully detailed plan,” HUD spokesman Lemar Wooley told The Brooklyn Paper.

Continuum did not respond to repeated requests for comment about its failure to respond to HUD’s request.

Updated 5:41 pm, October 10, 2008
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