There was hoopla at City Hall Friday as Mayor Bill de Blasio and a host of city officials declared victory in their fight to keep Long Island College Hospital, or something like it, open in Brooklyn, but the details may not tell the same story. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
The deal in the battle over Long Island College Hospital's fate is a deal that actually leaves the key issue unresolved: whether or not northern Brooklyn will still have a hospital when all is said and done.
SUNY has been trying to close the money-losing hospital, known as LICH, and sell the valuable Cobble Hill property. The hospital has stayed open for the last few months only because community members and medical staff sued.
On Friday, both sides told the judge they'd hammered out an agreement. It requires that SUNY keep the hospital open until May 22, and in the meantime, completely re-do the bidding process for selling the property.
"The previous process favored real estate and repulsed hospital operators," said Jeff Strabone of the Cobble Hill Association. "The new process will attract a genuine hospital operator because it will give a higher score for a real hospital."
Bidders for the property will lose points if they don't include an emergency room, an intensive care unit and some impatient beds.
For the deal to work as intended, at least one qualified bidder will have to come forward in the next few days.
The judge on this case said he wanted everyone to understand that the settlement offers no guarantees. He even cut off the attorneys and addressed the courtroom, saying, quote: "There is always the chance... things could go bad...Is everyone clear on that?"
"My concern is that in three months, if someone is not found who is appropriate, the doors will close," said Lori Balzano, a nurse at LICH. "I feel maybe right now, it's the best that could have been done under the circumstances."
"I feel this is as good as could be hoped for," said Dr. Donald Berman of LICH. "The settlement disappoints some, but it gives us a lifeline to continue. We have several months in which to hire a suitable suitor who will provide quality services. We hope to find one and continue in the good graces and the good nature of LICH's care for the 160 years it's served this community."
That was not the message at City Hall, where the mayor and public advocate held a celebratory press conference after the deal was announced.
"This guarantees the fundamental right to community health care for the 80,000 people who rely first and foremost on LICH today," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
However, that's not necessarily so. There is no guarantee with this deal, something the mayor admitted later under questioning, but he said he was optimistic that it will work out. And after a tough few weeks, he seemed happy to frame an issue he's been tied to as an unequivocal success.
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Web Extra: Watch Mayor's Full Press Conference on LICH Agreement