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Judge Temporarily Halts Sale of LICH Over Failure to Hire Laid-Off Nurses

By Nikhita Venugopal | August 27, 2014 4:55pm | Updated on August 27, 2014 6:26pm
 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 — A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge temporarily prevented the State University of New York from closing on the sale of Long Island College Hospital Wednesday over the buyer's failure to hire nurses laid off from the medical center.

The New York State Nurses Association won a temporary restraining order that halted Fortis Property Group, NYU Langone Medical Center and Lutheran Family Health Center from taking over LICH after union workers accused the coalition of violating its commitment to hire nurses let go from the hospital.

"NYU cannot preserve quality care for LICH patients without the skilled and experienced nurses who have shown our unwavering commitment to this community. It is unconscionable for NYU to punish LICH nurses for being outspoken patient advocates,” NYSNA exectuive director Jill Furrilo said in a statement.

Further layoffs from the hospital's emergency department and the transfer of services to Fortis and NYU were prevented until at least Sept. 12, according to the order issued by Judge Laura Jacobson and a spokeswoman for NYSNA.

The Fortis coalition has only hired one laid-off LICH nurse out of at least five applicants, court records show. 

“We strongly disagree with NYSNA’s allegations that SUNY is not holding the developer, Fortis Property Group, and its healthcare partners, NYU Langone and Lutheran Family Health Centers, accountable to the terms of the RFP for the Cobble Hill hospital site," a NYU spokeswoman said, adding that they were prepared to begin operations next week.  

"We have been interviewing and hiring qualified nurses and staff — a number of whom work for or previously worked for LICH — to fully staff this facility, which will be known as NYULMC Cobble Hill, and to provide a continuity of care for Brooklyn residents,” she said.

While most of the hospital shuttered in May, the winning coalition was scheduled to take over LICH's ER on Sept. 1. SUNY must now continue to run the LICH emergency department, according to court documents.

According to Fortis, NYU Langone Medical Center and Lutheran’s proposal, “[i]n addition to employing SEIU 1199 and NYSNA staff and providers [NYU] and [Lutheran] will independently contract with NYSNA nurses through an intermediate entity or staging company.

“This will help maximize the number of NYSNA nurses continuing to work at LICH and thereby help preserve the legacy of excellent care provided at LICH.”

But the group is “violating their clear and material commitment” by failing to hire or contact registered LICH nurses, NYSNA attorney Richard Seltzer said in court documents.

“SUNY’s refusal to require Fortis and its partner NYU to honor the terms of the Fortis bid makes a mockery of this Court’s order approving the settlement agreement and the RFP process,” Seltzer wrote in his filing.

NYSNA pointed to job postings, including one for “Cobble Hill Emergency Department,” operated by NYU Langone Medical Center, that lists one of the requirements as being “non union.” According to the National Labor Relations Board, "it is unlawful to discourage (or encourage) union activities or sympathies 'by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment.'"

SUNY terminated contract negotiations with two top bidders, Brooklyn Health Partners and Peebles Corporation, before finally settling on the Fortis bid in June.

"Efforts to finalize the deal and bring a viable, long-term, and high quality health care solution for the community are ongoing," said SUNY spokesman David Doyle in a statement.

"SUNY remains in constant contact with all parties and will continue to do so until a final agreement is reached."