Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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SUNY Downstate Withdraws LICH Closure Plan

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SUNY Downstate officials announced Friday they are withdrawing a plan to close Long Island College Hospital and will now work to craft a sustainability plan to continue medical services and education, though the fate of the hospital is anything but certain. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Daniel Williams comes to Long Island College Hospital three times a week for dialysis. He, like several patients we spoke with are breathing a sigh of relief at the news that SUNY Downstate Medical Center has withdrawn its plan to close LICH.

"Thank God," Williams said. "I'm happy for it."

"Now I don't have to go nowhere else," another patient said. "I can stay here with the doctors that know me and I know them."

For months SUNY Downstate has been adamant about closing the facility, which serves several neighborhoods including Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. SUNY officials say LICH is losing $1 million a week, threatening the whole system.

But with a temporary restraining order from a Brooklyn judge barring Downstate from moving forward with the closing, and a state law requiring them to submit a plan for staying open before lawmakers could consider giving them financial assistance, SUNY Downstate was stuck.

President John Williams said the legal proceedings stood in the way of crafting the sustainability plan.

The group that led the campaign against the closure, the New York State Nurses Association, called the reversal a major victory.

"We were able to mount a lot of public pressure on the need for LICH in the community," Eliza Carboni of NYSNA said.

NYSNA says it's not dropping its lawsuit against SUNY, but looks forward to conversations that may lead to different management of LICH.

SUNY says it plans to expand its search for health providers who may be interested in playing a role at LICH.

"What we are looking for, I hope, is someone who can come in and partner with us," Herdley Hill from NYSNA said. "See the potential that the hospital has and maximize that potential."

Though this may just be a reprieve for LICH, its workers and patients, its fate remains unclear.

"It's absolutely not yet in the clear," state Sen. Daniel Squadron said. "What we can now do is work together without a sword of Damocles hanging over our head."

SUNY Downstate must submit its sustainability plan to the state by June 1.

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