Huddled together wearing red New York Nurse Association ponchos, protestors shouted and made noise until police escorted them off the steps. Inside, Judge Johnny Lee Baynes extended the temporary restraining order preventing the hospital's closure.
Baynes heard from attorneys representing the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and representatives from the State University of New York Downstate (Downstate), which operates LICH and decided to close the Cobble Hill hospital last month.
While Richard Seltzer, attorney for NYSNA, recognized that LICH can be closed at the will of Dr. John Williams, the head of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, he told the judge that the board of trustees was in violation of the open meeting policy when it voted.
His argued a public forum was held only after a private meeting took place where the board voted to close LICH. Seltzer told the judge that the trustees were notified they were breaking the law, but decided to participate in the closed-door meeting anyway.
An attorney representing Downstate said there was a public hearing where the board took questions and comments from the community for over three hours, adding that Dr. Williams was present.
He also said SUNY was in a unique situation that required the board to act quickly. He said the hospital faces a $40 million budget shortfall and will run out of money in roughly 35 to 40 days.
“LICH is in serious finical shape,” he said.
The judge said that he will make a comprehensive decision in the near future, but did not specify a date for the next hearing.
After the hearing, Seltzer was asked if he felt like this was a win for NYSNA. “It’s a victory that the temporary restraining order is continued,” he said.
Alex Garner, chief of neonatology at LICH, was waiting outside for the judge's decision.
“We are very pleased with the judge's decision to allow us to continue to appropriately care for our newborns,” she said. “I hope the judge will continue to decide in our favor.”