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Emotions High as SUNY Trustees Meet for Final Decision on LICH

By DNAinfo Staff on February 8, 2013 9:31am

MIDTOWN — An emotional crowd fighting the closure of Long Island College Hospital turned the words of the hospital president against him Thursday, chanting a line from a presentation of his reasons for shuttering the facility.

"Why close LICH?! Why close LICH?!" chanted the crowd of nurses, physicians, employees, and advocates at a public hearing with the SUNY Board of Trustees, which is slated to vote Friday on the proposed closure.

Dr. John Williams, president of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, that includes LICH, who asked the board to close the hospital, saying it was losing money and draining the entire Downstate system, presented a slide reading "Why Close LICH?" — setting off the impromptu chant.

“Annual operating losses have continued since that acquisition,” said Williams, referring to Downstate’s acquisition of LICH. “We have an unsustainable cost-structure.”

If the Board of Trustees votes to close LICH, the matter then goes to the Department of Health for further authorization.  

The New York State Assembly will hold a public hearing Friday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, to address the healthcare delivery system in the borough.

Several LICH employees as well as local politicians spoke at the hearing including Councilwoman Letitia James, Councilman Brad Lander, and State Senator Daniel Squadron.

The crowd’s emotion varied with each speaker, erupting in cheers at an impassioned speech, and growing quiet and teary-eyed as LICH well-wishers spoke of their experiences with the hospital.

Before the hearing, the New York State Nurses Association organized a protest and rally where dozens of nurses gathered to speak out.

Susan Shanahan has been a registered nurse at LICH for two years after graduating from the hospital’s nursing school program. She said the only other options for residents in the area was much further away.

“Every moment, when you’re in an emergent healthcare situation or crisis, counts between life and death,” she said.

Shanahan also talked about potential patients from Brooklyn Bridge Park who could have accidents while exercising or in the water.

“All of those patients are right next to LICH,” she said.