Judge's ruling complicates future of Brooklyn hospital

August 20, 2013 5:04:22 PM PDT
The future of the financially distressed Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn was further complicated Tuesday after a judge who two years ago approved the transfer of LICH's assets to a state agency reversed her decision, vacating her original order.

In an eight-page decision, state Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest wrote that despite assurances from SUNY Downstate Medical Center that it would keep LICH fully operating when she approved the asset transfer in 2011, "there is no pretense that SUNY-Downstate will continue to operate the hospital."

"It is clear that the premise upon which this Court authorized the transfer of assets has been defeated and there has been no consideration provided by SUNY to LICH or the people of Brooklyn served by LICH," Demarest wrote, noting she recently visited the hospital and witnessed ambulances being turned away.

The hospital, located in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn, has 18 properties valued at close to $1 billion.

The 155-year-old community hospital has been plagued by money woes, which SUNY has estimated equal a projected $41 million deficit this fiscal year and a gap expected to increase to $60 million next year.

In a statement, SUNY Downstate said the agency had spent millions trying to turn LICH around but began to wind down operations as LICH began "endangering Downstate and SUNY's medical school."

"This is not about profits over patients, or a real estate deal, it is just the opposite," it said.

In her decision, Demarest suggested that Continuum Health Partners - which had previously operated LICH - is uniquely qualified to operate the hospital once again.

But Stanley Brezenoff, Continuum's president and CEO, said in a statement that would be unlikely.

"Upon due consideration, Continuum respectfully concludes that we cannot reassume management of LICH and is unable to take responsibility for the hospital's operations," he said.

SUNY is also negotiating a separate lawsuit brought by various unions and the city's public advocate, Bill de Blasio, that would keep the hospital open for care until another operator takes over.

The state Health Department did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.