The battle over Long Island College Hospital is starting to take its toll on patients, who say the legal wrangling is confusing and making them sick. NY1's Cheryl Wills sat down with two chronically ill patients who say their future hangs in the balance.
June Clark Smith, 54, met her best friend, Sharon Simmons, at the Hematology unit of Long Island College Hospital some 50 years ago. They were kindergarteners back then. Both were diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. They've had numerous brushes with death together, and LICH became their sanctuary, a home away from home when the going got tough.
Now, as they wait for word about the fate of their hospital, they admit they are at their wits' end.
"We don't want it to be business as usual. We want to stop this from happening," Smith said. "This is not business as usual. These are people's lives. My life."
"That just makes it aggravate you more, makes your pain progress, gives you more stress," Simmons said.
Sickle cell anemia is a blood disorder that often leaves patients debilitated, but Simmons is so infuriated with the back and forth between SUNY Downstate, the union, local politicians and the courts that she worked up the strength to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to make a statement.
"Why would you close a health institution that services so many people?" Smith said. "I can't fathom that at all."
None of this sits well with Fatiyn Muhammad, who is his wife Sharon's caregiver.
"You're diverting ambulances from LICH, sending them to those hospitals, which are overcrowded. So what happens now?" Muhammad said. "I've heard people were in the emergency rooms at some of these other hospitals for over 24 hours, people getting upset, where people were going at each other. What kind of environment, what is happening here?"
Simmons and Smith said they're reluctant to go to another hospital because they need special care. They're holding out hope that a judge will keep LICH open. With hope fading fast, though, the two friends said they don't know where they will turn.