As the financial problems of SUNY Downstate Medical Center become increasingly worse, another health care facility may be forced to close.
SUNY acquired Long Island College Hospital (LICH) Cobble Hill in 2011, and by all accounts the acquisition has proved a financial disaster for both. Recently, the board of the State University of New York (SUNY) announced it is considering closing LICH.
"The Board has discussed the possibility of closing LICH, and Chairman [Carl] McCall reiterated that this was a possibility," said David Doyle, a spokesman for SUNY. "The board may vote in the near future on endorsing this course of action as part of a fiscally responsible plan to ensure medical education and quality healthcare continues for the people of Brooklyn.
To date, no closure plan has been submitted to the department," he added.
But residents and elected officials weren’t waiting for the announcement of a vote to mobilize to save the hospital. At a rally in front of the hospital last week, nurses and doctors chanted “Save LICH” to passing cars and pedestrians.
State Senator Daniel Squadron spoke directly to Chairman McCall, demanding that LICH be saved for the sake of the Brooklyn community. “We are ready and wiling to work on a re-stabilization plan,” he said.
“We cannot loose healthcare in Brooklyn,” Squadron said. “If we lose SUNY Downstate LICH or any campus, we’re going to put all of Brooklyn on life support and we can’t allow it.”
LICH employee Mercedes Folkes, who has worked at the hospital for over 50 years, said that the facility is a staple in the community and must be saved. She said that the community needs to band together and demand answers from the SUNY board.
Folkes said closing the hospital was “not the answer to the problem,” and suggested that all of the parties involved should sit down and negotiate.
Maria Castaneda of 1199SEIU argued that the SUNY board is too focused on money, ignoring patient care. She also expressed concern for the employees who will lose their jobs.
“They did not take into consideration the impact to these workers, who have dedicated their working lives to taking care of our patients,” she said.
“Is it profits before people?” asked Joan Rowley, who has worked at the hospital for 37 years. “I feel closing this institution is doing harm to the community. It should not have happened. There should have been more discussion.”
According to a recent report by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, SUNY Downstate may be in even more trouble than most think. According to the report, SUNY Downstate is losing roughly $1 million a week and may start bouncing checks as soon as May.
However, money is not on the minds of those who don’t want to see LICH, which has been serving the community for 150 years, shut its doors.
“We are very angry about this,” Rowley said. “You asked for our loyalty, we’ve given you loyalty. But I think above and beyond that, all the workers, we need answers.”