SUNY Orders LICH Closure Again in Court-Ordered Public Meeting

By Nikhita Venugopal on March 19, 2013 4:46pm | Updated on March 19, 2013 5:09pm

 LICH advocates gather at the SUNY campus in Purchase, N.Y. to speak out against the hospital's closure.
LICH advocates gather at the SUNY campus in Purchase, N.Y. to speak out against the hospital's closure.
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NEW YORK — The State University of New York has voted, once again, to close Long Island College Hospital, citing financial difficulties.

The vote took place Tuesday afternoon at Purchase College, 30 miles north of the Cobble Hill hospital, after a Brooklyn judge ruled last week that SUNY's Board of Trustees had to hold a public meeting on the closure to comply with the Open Meetings Law.

"The Board of Trustees today took the difficult but necessary step of supporting the decision to close Long Island College Hospital,” SUNY said in a press release.

“This is the latest of many actions needed to stabilize the finances of Downstate Medical Center and preserve its 8,000 jobs and Brooklyn's only medical school.”

The Board of Trustees also praised Dr. John Williams, president of SUNY Downstate, which includes LICH, and his team for “their commitment to preserving and ultimately strengthening this hidden jewel of the SUNY system,” according to the press release.

For the LICH closure to go forward, the state Department of Health would have to approve it as well. The timeline of the Department of Health's decision was not immediately clear.

On Tuesday, about 100 protesters, including nurses, physicians and patients, gathered in the lobby of the Purchase College's performing arts building, where the meeting took place, said Eliza Bates, a spokeswoman for the New York Nurses Association, which chartered three buses to bring LICH supporters to the campus.

Complying with the Open Meetings Law, a handful of people were allowed to speak at a public hearing before the vote was taken, either in person or via webcam.

“It was very rushed,” Bates said.

Herdley Hill, a registered nurse at LICH who spoke at the hearing, criticized SUNY for holding the meeting 30 miles outside the city. He and others traveled to the SUNY campus to speak for those who could not be at the meeting.

“We felt the need to be present,” he said. “We have to keep fighting.”

During his comments at the meeting, Hill said he asked the SUNY board whether LICH’s real estate value had been a factor in their decision to close the hospital. When the Board said no, Hill asked for public access to LICH's financial records. Williams replied that the hospital's books are already open to the public.

Last week, Judge Johnny Lee Baynes ordered SUNY to reschedule the meeting on the hospital's closure because a Feb. 7 meeting, where the board voted to shut down the hospital, did not comply with the state’s Open Meetings Law. The law is designed to allow the general public to stay informed.

A candlelight vigil for the hospital will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Long Island College Hospital.

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