Long Island College Hospital has very few patients to keep track of these days — fewer than a dozen according to a hospital spokesman — and now one has vanished from his hospital bed.
Celso Heredia, an 81-year-old patient, was admitted the day that the emergency room stopped accepting ambulances. He walked out of the hospital at about 4:16 pm Wednesday wearing a blue and white striped shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers at about the time angry doctors and nurses were marching across the Brooklyn Bridge protesting the hospital’s closure.
Heredia has brown eyes, gray hair, and a murky past: he was admitted to the hospital on June 20 after police discovered him walking down the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with $300 in his pocket. He had recently shaved and was carrying Mexican identification and a note in his pocket that read, “Please help this person get on the correct bus to Atlantic City,” the New York Times reported.
When police first found Heredia, he was disoriented and thought that he was in California and that the year was 2005. Police brought him to Long Island College Hospital and a week passed without anyone coming to look for him.
“He was ready to walk out the door,” a police sergeant told the Times.
The State University of New York, which runs Long Island College Hospital and is trying to shut it down, is directing ambulances away from the hospital’s emergency room because of what administrators describe as an “exodus” of skilled doctors. But a spokesman for the university said that there is currently still enough doctors and nurses at the hospital to take care of the few remaining patients.
“There is certainly no shortage of staff at Long Island College Hospital,” said Robert Bellafiore, a state spokesman, who would only speak about a hypothetical version of Heredia’s case because of patient privacy laws.
Because there is only a small number of patients left, Bellafiore said, doctors and nurses are “tripping over each” other to treat those who remain.Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at email@example.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.