A winning bidder has been selected to buy the financially troubled Long Island College Hospital, and in a victory for community advocates, plans for the site include a new full-service hospital, but the future of LICH is far from a done deal. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
On the surface, Thursday’s announcement by the SUNY Board of Trustees would seem to be vindication for those who've been fighting the closure of Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital.
Brooklyn Health Partners, which scored highest out of nine proposals submitted, plans to build a mixed-use development that includes condos and commercial space, but also a full-service, 300- to 400-bed hospital.
"We felt that that was actually the best choice of the proposals that were submitted, so we're excited," said Charlene Nimmons, president of the Wyckoff Gardens Association.
"I can exhale that there's finally a bid in, and it has been accepted, for a full-service hospital," said Sue Raboy of Patients for LICH.
Opposition to LICH's closure swelled over the past year and was central to Bill de Blasio's mayoral campaign.
At an offer price of $250 million, the winning bid is also good news for SUNY, eager to rid itself of a hospital that's been losing millions.
"Our goal is to exit LICH, to leave it in the hands in of an operator who will provide medical services to the community, and allow us to return to, and not be distracted from, our core mission," said SUNY Chairman Carl McCall.
Now, negotiations begin with SUNY, which hopes to have a signed agreement within 30 days and to close the deal within six months.
In the meantime, Brooklyn Health Partners has a number of regulatory hurdles to overcome. That includes obtaining a hospital operating license, which is no sure thing, given that Brooklyn Health Partners does not currently run any New York hospitals. Obtaining financing could also be a challenge.
Should the deal fall through, SUNY would automatically move to the next highest scoring proposals.
"If Brooklyn Health Partners, for whatever reason, the negotiations fall apart, which I don't expect them to, the next two in line are not full-service hospitals," Raboy said.
Hospital workers and community members applauded the decision, but they said they know the battle isn't over yet.
"It feels really good to see that when a community mobilizes, we can actually get what we set out to achieve," said one person. "So props to Brooklyn and props to Cobble Hill."
"What a relief for everybody, for everybody on the coalition, for the workers, for us, the patients," said Manny Maldonado of Patients for LICH Group. "It's been a very tough battle."
"We look at is as a victory but, you know, we are very cautious about this because we hope that the Brooklyn Health Partners will work with us continuously," said Joan Rowley, a critical care nurse.
Community members say all they want is a fair process from SUNY in approving the new ownership.
SUNY plans to exit operations at LICH by May 22. The new hospital wouldn't open for three years, but if all goes as planned, Brooklyn Health Partners would maintain services in the meantime with a 150-bed facility, including an emergency room.