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Settlement on LICH Does Not Guarantee Full Service Hospital

By Nikhita Venugopal | February 21, 2014 7:45pm
 Long Island College Hospital at 339 Hicks St.
Long Island College Hospital at 339 Hicks St.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

COBBLE HILL — The recent settlement on Long Island College Hospital’s future does not guarantee a full service hospital and could even lead to closure unless a new operator is found.

Attorneys for state officials, labor unions and community groups detailed the new settlement Friday afternoon.

The settlement clears the way for new developers to take over the struggling Cobble Hill hospital and will give the community more input in choosing a proposal for the hospital.

But if there are no takers for the hospital by May 22, 2014, the State University of New York will give up control of LICH and it will close.

“There are no guarantees here, judge,” said attorney Jim Walden, speaking to Justice Johnny Lee Baynes.

The settlement is the “best compromise under the circumstances” with all parties, including SUNY, the state Department of Health, New York State Nurses Association, 1199 SEIU and community groups making sacrifices to come to an agreement, Walden said.

It also stipulates a minimum offering of $210 million for any proposal.

SUNY will open a new “Request for Proposals” process and will accept plans from both old and new bidders for LICH.

As each proposal is scored, more points will be awarded to plans that have more medical services and healthcare facilities, particularly for full service and teaching hospitals. 

More weight will be given to the “technical” components of a developer’s plan, which include proposed medical services. The rest will be evaluated based on the financial side of a proposal.

“We think this is our best chance to get a hospital,” said Jeff Strabone of the Cobble Hill Association. “The RFP is designed to be attractive to hospital operators.”

To ensure local input, appointed and qualified members of the community will make up 49 percent of a committee. SUNY will form 51 percent of that committee as well as the entire group that will scrutinize the proposal’s financial viability.

Prospective bidders are also required to meet with community members before putting in their bids.

The RFP still allows for developers to propose condominiums and residential units for LICH, but Strabone believes that healthcare services will win out.

“If someone came and in and proposed only apartments, I don’t see how they could possibly win,” he said.

For a year, SUNY has been trying to sell the hospital, which state officials say is losing $13 million each month.

According to the settlement, if net proceeds from the final deal exceed $240 million, 25 percent of the money will be given to a nonprofit, chosen by community leaders, that’s devoted to preserving healthcare.

The expedited RFP process will begin three days after the court approves the settlement. It could begin as early as next week, Walden said.

Bidders will have 15 days to submit their proposals, which will be followed by a rapid seven-day selection process.

“We’re beginning a new process with an emphasis on healthcare,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference Friday afternoon. 

“For the first time in more than a decade, the emphasis is on community healthcare.”

On Thursday, attorneys praised the settlement as being “extraordinary” but some union and community members showed a tepid response to the deal.

When Maribel Agosto, a registered nurse at LICH, heard that the hospital could close in May, she wept silently.

Agosto thought about the 1,400 employees that still work at LICH and who have fought for the hospital for more than a year, she said.

“We want to make sure that nobody gets left behind,” she said. “Our work is not done yet.”

The community needs a full emergency room, critical care facilities, an intensive care unit and inpatients beds, among others — in short, a full service hospital, nurses and community members said.

Dr. Alice Garner, who heads the hospital’s neonatal unit, welcomed community input for the selection of a proposal, but she feared that the rushed process would only lead to a bitter end for LICH.

“[It] looks like another avenue for closure,” said Garner.

Few were pleased with every part of the settlement but LICH supporters maintained hope that the deal would eventually turn in their favor.

“It’s not a perfect agreement,” said Susan Raboy, who lives in Brooklyn Heights and leads a group called “Patients for LICH.” “It’s the best possible outcome.”

“I’m hopeful for the first time in a long time,” she said.