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New Legal Ruling Adds Novel Twist to LICH Closure

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Brooklyn judge is attempting to restore service at Long Island College Hospital by reversing its transfer, two years ago, from Continuum —a Manhattan-based hospital network—to the State University of New York. 

SUNY has been trying to close LICH for months. Supporters have been fighting the shutdown in court — an effort that has kept the doors open, but just barely. Almost all patients, and many staff members, have left LICH.

The implications of the 8-page legal decision are not immediately clear.

In the ruling, Justice Carolyn Demarest wrote that SUNY has not abided by the terms of the 2011 transfer, so LICH should go back to Continuum. Continuum issued a statement saying it, quote, "cannot reassume management of LICH."

Demarest wrote in language that was deeply personal and highly critical of SUNY's administration. She said she had visited LICH in the week before the ruling and seen ambulances "containing persons in critical need" turned away — an act she called "a travesty."

"I have been increasingly concerned as to the propriety of my own order granting approval of the transfer of LICH's assets to SUNY Downstate in light of Downstate's apparent lack of stewardship over those assets," she wrote. "I have determined that I have a legal and moral responsibility to correct my earlier error and hereby render the following decision sua sponte" [of my own accord, and without formal prompting from another party].

SUNY, meanwhile, said it has been trying to find another operator to take over the troubled hospital, but so far has not located anyone.

"The facts are that when SUNY acquired Long Island College Hospital it was done with the best of intentions; save a hospital that was on the verge of closure, grow the struggling Downstate enterprise as a strategy to survive, and provide additional clinical training opportunities for our students," wrote public relations representative Robert Bellafiore, in an email. "SUNY has poured millions of dollars into LICH in an attempt to reverse nearly two decades of financial losses. Unfortunately, SUNY and LICH became victims of the daunting realities of Brooklyn's health care delivery landscape. We are disappointed it did not work, but it was not for lack of effort."

Pepperdine Law School Professor Craig Garner, a former hospital CEO who writes about hospital closures and mergers, says it is not clear how Demarest can unwind the deal at this late stage.

"We’re talking about going back in time and making it void, as if it had never occurred, and that’s very bizarre," Garner said.

Garner says state health authorities generally regulate hospitals and federal bankruptcy courts generally oversee the disposal of their assets.

NYU Professor Harvey Dale also said Demarest appears to be overstepping her judicial authority.

"I don’t know how the judge gets jurisdiction over all these people, potentially against their will, and without a hearing and without the opportunity for the various parties to be heard," Dale said. "It seems to me very strange."

Dale said even if Justice Demarest does not have legal precedent on her side, she could be trying to force the different sides to come together and find a way to keep LICH open. But Dale says that role usually falls to a governor, mayor or health commissioner – not a judge.

Demarest called for a meeting among the different parties in her chambers in the state courthouse in Brooklyn on Thursday "to address the orderly and expeditious return of assets to LICH and the future operation of LICH as a hospital."

 

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Comments [2]

Georgia R. Parks RN from Carroll Gardens

As a LICH RN, a LICH patient, and a Carroll Gardens homeowner,I have seen a level of mismanagement and administrative neglect under SUNY that is absolutely staggering. I defy anyone to find evidence of the 'millions' spent on LICH while under their control. Two years ago we welcomed what promised to be an opportunity to expand our patient care in a newly collaborative, academically enhanced environment. Instead we have experienced first hand an administration that behaves as if it's in the witness protection program, leaving us to absent directives, inept billing and reimbursement policies, incompetent vendors, and even thousands in mystery pharmacy invoice charges ( a 'mistake' they said. Oooops!) Tens of thousands in our rightful insurance repayments have been intentionally lost under SUNY, even as they have ignored a huge potential market of Brooklyn's new and growing health care consumers that might have otherwise been welcomed to discover the hidden jewel that LICH really is. This was an engineered failure designed to hide a land grab, and SUNY's claim of investing in LICH is a patent lie. How much longer will they be allowed to hide their books and their motives? And Cuomo has the same dollar bills in his eyes, which explains why this usual bully continues to look away and allow SUNY to defy the courts and the law. It is nothing less than an abject disgrace.

Aug. 23 2013 12:13 AM
Charles Parisi from New York, NY

As a former middle management of LICH ( and a former Corporate Real Estate representative for Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Center), SUNY attempted to emulate Continuum's strategy - take possession of a facility, make no medical or infrastructure investment, sell off the assets ( real estate in this matter) and ultimately shutter it's doors.

Judge Demarest has made a very valid point - SUNY never abided by their contractual obligations. Example - the purchase of a $2.6 mm DaVinci robot which was slated for LICH, was delivered, installed, physician training, etc. By Christmas, the unit was relocated to Downstate. Over 50k was expendid on coordination, installation, training, patient case scheduling. This is one of MANY mismanaged decisions, all at taxpayer expense (however, iin the eyes of certain SUNY consultants blaming LICH). I can give many, many examples of mismanagement, roadblocks, lack of communication of SUNY management officials.

Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon - Governor Cuomo, Jeffrey Sachs, "Skip" Williams, Dr. Becker of Brooklyn Hospital Center and George Washington University.

I applaude the Judge for placing LICH in special receivership but please, choose an entity that has NO TIES to the listed above. This includes the current Continuum leadership.

Aug. 21 2013 09:22 PM

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