Fate of Brooklyn Hosptial in SUNY Board's Hands

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The board that oversees the State University of New York system is meeting Friday morning to decide the fate of the Long Island College Hospital, commonly known as LICH.

SUNY acquired the financially troubled hospital in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, in 2010, hoping it would be a beneficial partner to SUNY’s Downstate teaching hospital in East Flatbush.

But on Thursday, Dr. John Williams, the president of the SUNY Downstate hospital system, formally recommended to the university board that LICH be closed. He said both hospitals have continued to lose money, especially LICH.

"I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been to Albany," he said. "We’ve talked to the Department of Health, Division of Budget. We've talked to the governor’s office, so we could get some cash, but nothing has worked so far."

At the meeting, nurses, doctors and others who work at the Cobble Hill hospital and others pleaded with the Board to keep it open. Williams said that wealthy residents in the area are not using the hospital and are going to Manhattan for much of their medical care. City Councilman Brad Lander, whose main doctor is at LICH, was one of many speakers who disputed that.

"I know people whose general practitioner is there," Lander said. "I know seniors who go for geriatric care. There are a lot of people like me who go to different parts of the hospital for different kinds of needs."

On the streets of Cobble Hill, residents praised the hospital as a cornerstone of the community. But one of them, Alan Shapiro, said it is not a place he would go for crucial health needs.

"I think it's convenient," he said, "but I don't think it's considered a first-tier hospital the way that something like a Long Island Jewish or a Northshore, where you'd go if you were having major surgery."

Several elected officials who spoke asked for additional time for local and state officials to consider alternatives and work out a restructuring plan. Carl McCall, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, said time is running out, and there does not appear to be any more money available from Albany. The recommendation is to close the hospital as an inpatient center as soon as this spring, but it also leaves open the possibility of retaining part of it to serve other healthcare functions.