Judge Issues Restraining Order Giving LICH One-Month Reprieve

By Nikhita Venugopal on April 2, 2013 9:06am 

COBBLE HILL — A Brooklyn judge  on Monday ordered health officials not to shutter Long Island College Hospital until a hearing next month, according to court documents.

Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes ruled that SUNY, along with the State Department of Health and Dr. Nirav Shah, the state commissioner of health, could not close LICH until a hearing on May 2.

Baynes also ordered SUNY officials to subject their plan to close LICH to a “meaningful review” as required under New York Education Law 356. 

After the State University of New York sounded the hospital’s death knell on March 19 in a court-ordered public meeting, LICH advocates see the latest ruling as a glimmer of hope to save their hospital. SUNY officials have been attempting to close the hospital for months, citing financial difficulties.

Baynes called the recommendation to close the hospital made by Dr. John Williams, president of SUNY Downstate (which includes LICH), to the Board to Trustees, “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion and a violation of lawful procedure,” according to court documents.

Last month, the Brooklyn judge ordered SUNY to conduct a public meeting to discuss the closure of Long Island College Hospital, ruling their first meeting, on Feb. 7, was in violation of the Open Meetings Law which is designed to help the general public stay informed.

Within a few hours of the first ruling, SUNY scheduled the meeting in Purchase N.Y., more than 30 miles north of the Cobble Hill hospital, where they voted to close LICH. For the closure to go forward, the state Department of Health would have to approve it as well.

LICH advocates, who include patients, physicians and nurses, consider the latest ruling a victory in their long battle to save their beloved hospital.

“This ruling gives us more time to work with the Department of Health, elected officials and community advocates to develop alternative solutions that will keep LICH’s vital services and good jobs in the community,” said George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU in a press release, who sought the restraining order along with the New York State Nurses Association, Concerned Physicians of LICH and others.

“We firmly believe that with the right planning, management and vision this hospital could thrive, however, SUNY has instead pursued a path of rushing to close this hospital,” he said.

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