Statement on Long Island College Hospital
Statement to the SUNY Board of Trustees on the
Proposed Closure of Long Island College Hospital
Chairman McCall, members of the Board of Trustees, while I appreciate the opportunity to testify today, I must start by strenuously objecting to the rushed nature of this hearing, which denies many members of my community the opportunity to comment, and undermines the integrity of your public process.
I am here today to plead with you to reconsider your plan to close Long Island College Hospital. It is the wrong plan. It will do real harm to families and to our community. It is a long-term abandonment of essential health care infrastructure. And it unfortunately raises serious questions about SUNY Downstate’s intentions at the time of its acquisition of LICH in 2011.
Last month’s audit by the Office of the New York State Comptroller made clear the SUNY Downstate hospital system is in a fiscal crisis. It will take tough decisions and strong leadership for SUNY Downstate to become a financially solvent institution. But a complete closure of our 150-year-old hospital is simply unacceptable.
LICH is a vital community resource, with over 120,000 patient visits last year, including 25,900 to the ER. Access to a nearby healthcare facility is an issue of both safety and quality of life. In Community District 6, which includes the neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, there are 53 day care centers and 5 senior centers. That’s a lot of children and older adults who would lose access to primary care and emergency room services. And in the event of an emergency, the next closest ER is 1.5 miles away. In 2012, LICH averaged 90% occupancy.
If you close LICH now, you will be abandoning a 150-year-old investment in Brooklyn’s health care infrastructure, which we will never be able to recreate anywhere in the vicinity of downtown or brownstone Brooklyn. Many recent events have shown the need to maintain and invest in our infrastructure. You would be doing the opposite – selling off essential infrastructure for cash, rather than investing in it. This unfortunately raises the very real question of whether SUNY Downstate ever really intended to turn LICH around. SUNY Downstate knew the magnitude of the challenge when you made the acquisition. However, no meaningful plan was developed or implemented to integrate operations and make the necessary investments to enable it to succeed as part of SUNY. Was there real intention and competent action to incorporate and stabilize LICH – or was there interest in the estimated $500 worth of real estate that LICH represents as a way to address SUNY Downstate’s other problems?
Whatever the case, let’s work together now to develop an alternative plan. Along with my colleagues in government, I stand ready to work with you on a plan that preserves SUNY Downstate and its affiliates – University Hospital of Brooklyn, University Hospital at Long Island College Hospital, and SUNY Downstate at Bay Ridge – and provides a long-term solution for Brooklyn's neighborhoods and the entire state. Your proposal to close LICH is simply not that plan. Please reconsider, and do not enact a closure which can never be undone.
What does your neighborhood need? An improved park? Safer streets? New school technology? In participatory budgeting, you give your ideas and City Councilmember Brad Lander has set aside $1 million to fund them. And your votes will decide which projects get funded.