Protesters Rally Against SUNY Cuts to Ambulance Services at LICH

By Nikhita Venugopal on June 20, 2013 7:59pm 

Slideshow
 Dozens of protesters gathered in front of LICH, fighting SUNY Downstate's decision to end emergency ambulance service to the hospital.
Protesters at Long Island College Hospital
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COBBLE HILL — Doctors, nurses and administrative staff rallied outside Long Island College Hospital Thursday, after SUNY Downstate ordered ambulances to divert emergency cases away from LICH and transfer patients in critical care units to other hospitals.

Advocates hastily organized the "emergency" protest after a notice posted at the hospital warned that the LICH Emergency Department "will be placed on official diversion by FDNY," as of 6 a.m. on June 20.

The hospital also announced that it would begin to transfer patients out of intensive care and critical care units and stop admitting patients to those units "for the foreseeable future."

Protesters accused SUNY Downstate of violating a judge's order to maintain staffing levels at the hospital.

But officials with SUNY Downstate, which owns LICH, said they were forced to cut emergency services because of almost "daily resignations" of medical staff.

"A dire situation is developing at LICH where we have seen voluntary resignations from the hospital's medical director, Pharmacy Department supervisors, the ER nurse manager, and our Chief Nursing Officer and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, as well as many other attending physicians and key personnel in Information Technology and other essential support areas,” said Dr. Michael Lucchesi, Chief Medical Officer, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital, in a statement.

Local officials, including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Letitia James protested alongside the LICH advocates, who've been fighting for months to save the hospital.

While the hospital's emergency services are still running, it's not admitting any new patients, said Lisa Tabora, an ER nurse at LICH.

“It’s heartbreaking for us,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”

On Wednesday, a Kings County Supreme Court judge ordered SUNY to keep staffing levels the same as they were before SUNY Downstate announced its plan to close LICH.

Judge Johnny Lee Baynes also prevented SUNY from taking any action in its plan to close LICH, according to the judge's order.

The hospital’s residency program was scheduled to end this weekend, according to the New York Times.

Because a lack of residents would make it difficult for senior doctors to manage patients, Baynes ordered SUNY to maintain residents and fellows, as well as staffing in the psychiatry department, which had already been reduced, the newspaper reported.

“[SUNY officials] don’t care about the courts,” said Dr. Alice Garner, who heads the neonatal intensive care unit at LICH.

Garner said a patient who was pregnant with triplets was asked to leave the hospital even after the judge's order was announced.

“I don’t understand why someone is not in jail,” she said.

SUNY officials and LICH advocates are scheduled to meet in court on July 15.

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