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LICH Closure Approved; Restraining Order Could Buy Time

Public Advocate De Blasio, Doctors, Nurses Rally Before Decision
People rally against the close of the Long Island College Hospital on Friday. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

People rally against the close of the Long Island College Hospital on Friday. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – SUNY Downstate received approval from the State Department of Health on Friday to shut down Long Island College Hospital. However, the closure may have to wait.

The letter from the health department, dated July 19, said the hospital could begin to stop admitting patients to the emergency room on July 22 and close almost everything else on July 29, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported. Late Friday afternoon, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced that a restraining order had been obtained that could prevent the hospital’s closure.

“While SUNY has made it clear that it will not continue to operate LICH, as is reflected in the state-approved sustainability plan for Downstate, the hospital is not closing this weekend,” Robert Bellafiore, the spokesman for SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said before the official decision. “No hospital in New York State can close without the approval of the Department of Health.”

Now it has that consent.

“DOH’s approval of the LICH closure plan is a terrible mistake,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents Long Island College Hospital.

“We are already seeing the consequences during this extreme and dangerous heatwave. By allowing SUNY to mothball LICH before a new operator is in place, DOH’s decision undermines a long-term healthcare solution for the community and Brooklyn,” Squadron said earlier. “There are solutions for LICH, and significant interest from potential operators — but the state and SUNY have come together to undermine those, instead of working collaboratively to make them a reality.”

Downstate has been trying to close the hospital for months.

Earlier on Friday, de Blasio, doctors, nurses and healthcare workers rallied to protest the imminent closing of the hospital after hearing that doctors there were told to have their remaining 18 patients transferred by the weekend.

“We’re all standing here with our fists raised to defend our hospital; to defend our community,” said paramedic Ryan Schivano. “And we’re not going anywhere.”

“They’re proceeding with a defacto closure by destroying the operations of this hospital,” de Blasio said.

On Friday afternoon, de Blasio tweeted that a restraining order would, at least temporarily, extend the life of the hospital.

SUNY Downstate claimed that each month the hospital is open, it loses $15 million.

Councilwoman Letitia James said emergency room wait times at other hospitals have tripled in this heat, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported. James and de Blasio filed suit against SUNY as well.

“This is demolition and destruction by diversion,” said one woman at the rally. “And so a crisis grows in Brooklyn.”

SUNY Downstate said it is looking for another company to take over the hospital and keep a healthcare facility there.

“All we want is for SUNY to keep the hospital open long enough for someone to take it off their hands,” a neighbor told Rincon. “They clearly only want it for the real estate value. We think lives are worth more than real estate.”

The building is on waterfront property that overlooks lower Manhattan.

Squadron has not given up hope.

“We continue to strongly urge DOH, SUNY and the governor to come together to preserve this vital resource,” he said.

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