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Patients to Be Transferred Out of LICH, Nurses Say

By Nikhita Venugopal | July 18, 2013 3:54pm | Updated on July 19, 2013 8:37am
 Public Advocate Bill de Blasio speaks to crowds at an emergency press conference, July 18, at 339 Hicks St.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio speaks to crowds at an emergency press conference, July 18, at 339 Hicks St.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — Patients at Long Island College Hospital will be discharged in the next 24 hours, administrators told doctors and nurses Thursday.

LICH employees have been given “notice of the imminent closure” of the Cobble Hill hospital, Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

“These SUNY administrators are acting like thieves in the night,” de Blasio said at an emergency press conference in front of the hospital at 339 Hicks St. He stood alongside Councilmen Stephen Levin and Brad Lander as well as state Sen. Daniel Squadron.

“By Sunday, this institution could be shuttered,” de Blasio said.

The acting vice president of nursing told hospital nurses that their patients would be discharged or transferred out of the hospital by Friday, said a spokeswoman for the New York State Nurses Association.

"Patently false statements and rumors about the immediate closure of LICH obfuscate the truth, which is SUNY’s commitment to securing proposals to provide healthcare services in the community," said Robert Bellafiore, spokesman for SUNY Downstate, which owns LICH, in an statement.

"... the hospital is not closing this weekend. No hospital in New York State can close without the approval of the Department of Health," said Bellafiore, adding that SUNY is following their state-approved "sustainability plan," which would hand over LICH to another healthcare operator.

A temporary restraining order, which would keep the hospital running, was "stayed by appeal," said Bellafiore, although crowds accused SUNY of violating the court order.

As critical staff voluntarily leave the hospital, the administration has reduced hospital services, like diverting ambulances and moving patients and elective surgeries to other facilities, said Bellafiore, adding that there are currently only 18 patients at LICH.

Rosa Tavarez, a labor delivery nurse at LICH, said all cases in the hospital’s operating room were going to be canceled, according to her supervisor, she said.

“Once again SUNY Downstate demonstrates blatant disregard for the court’s ruling that the hospital remain open for service," Levin and Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a joint statement.

"Their decision to remove all remaining patients creates a chaotic and unsafe environment, particularly when ambulances were already being diverted from other Brooklyn hospitals earlier this week. Preserving access to vital health care — especially in the middle of a dangerous heat wave — is essential. We demand that LICH keep its doors open as stipulated by law."

Dr. Alice Garner, who leads the neonatal intensive care unit at LICH, said that her staff was “commanded by administration” to discharge her patient — one premature baby in the neonatal unit.

Garner, who has been a physician at LICH since 2007, said the baby's mother did not want her child to be moved to another hospital.

“As long as it's safe for the baby, I will keep the baby here,” she said.