Following recent decisions made by SUNY Downstate regarding Long Island College Hospital, community members and elected officials staged a protest outside SUNY's Manhattan headquarters last week.
Several, including Councilman Steve Levin and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, left the protest in handcuffs, led away by police for failing to leave SUNY property.
Recently, SUNY eliminated ambulance service to the hospital stating that “an exodus of staff,” had occurred. However, groups fighting to save the hospital, argued SUNY was in violation of a restraining order that stated it could not make decisions that would reflect the closure of LICH.
“By getting arrested, we are sending a message that we will not tolerate SUNY’s disturbing disregard of the court orders,” Levin said. “LICH provides vital healthcare to our community and must be kept open for care.”
Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, the same judge that issued the restraining order, also ruled that the hospital must maintain the same amount of staff it had in February until the fate of the hospital is determined.
Despite that, SUNY has closed the maternity ward, cardiac catheterization lab, radiation oncology department, coronary care unity and the residency program.
“Right now, we’re losing this hospital as we speak,” said de Blasio before being arrested. “Facilities in the hospital are being closed down day by day, patients are being turned away, ambulances are being turned away. This hospital is on the verge of being lost to our community.”
Another protest was held on Monday, July 8 in Albany at the capital building calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to step in and save LICH.
That following Thursday, a “Stroller March to Save LICH” took place, as Cobble Hill residents brought their children out to protest the possible closure. The march began at the LICH playground on Henry and Pacific streets and ended with three arrests at the Brooklyn Bridge.
Among those arrested was Assemblywoman Joan Millman, who joked the next day about her run-in with the law by saying that her wrists were just starting to feel better.
“We did what we did as an attempt to keep up the momentum,” said Millman. “It is not pleasant, but it’s what needs to be done.”
SUNY Downstate has said the LICH is a financial burden, and tried to close it completely, but changed its course and said it would attempt to find a suitable buyer.
Millman has seen the Request for Information (RFI) that SUNY filed for prospective buyers. However, she said the seven interested buyers did not clearly state their intentions for the facility or even who they represent.
One of the proposals is for housing, something the community does not favor.
“They are violating our human right for health care and that is why we’re stepping this up a notch,” said Jeff Strabone, who was arrested with de Blasio and Levin at the rally in Manhattan. “We’re law-abiding people, the people who should be in jail are the SUNY Board of Trustees.”