After weeks of protests from doctors, nurses and community advocates, it looks a lot like Long Island College Hospital will close its doors this weekend. According to reports from several media outlets, doctors at the downtown Brooklyn hospital have been told to start transferring their patients to other facilities, a claim the hospital denies. The closure would be an interesting development, mostly because a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge against the hospital’s parent company, SUNY Downstate, which would seem to prevent its closure, is still very much in effect. The company says the hospital is losing $15 million a month and can’t be saved.
And amid of all the protests and restraining orders and secret patient-moving, the LICH has become a serious campaign issue in the mayoral race. Especially if you’re exceedingly pissed-off Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio, as you likely recall, got arrested at the last LICH rally on July 10, something he told reporters the night before that he was been planning on doing (no one looks this calm and noble-eagle-ish while being surprise-arrested, believe us). At that same rally, Anthony Weiner dropped by, as did John Liu, neither of whom seemed eager to get himself thrown in the pokey.
And yesterday, when a massive protest erupted in front of the LICH, culminating in a group of hospital staff trying to force their way inside, de Blasio was there again, along with City Councilmember Steve Levin and state Senator Dan Squadron, all of them demanding to talk to SUNY officials.
“These SUNY administrators are acting like thieves in the night,” de Blasio said, according to NY1. “Closing down the hospital without showing what they’re doing. But by tomorrow at this time there could be no patients left. By Sunday this facility could be shuttered.”
The elected trio, along with a handful of other doctors/protesters and a trail of journalists, eventually made it to the office of interim SUNY CEO James Karkenny, where, according to the Brooklyn Eagle, Karkenny refused to talk to them, called security, and then huffily locked himself in his office.
Not one to be left out of the fray, Christine Quinn released a strongly worded statement on Twitter, writing: “Access to vital health care, esp during a heat wave, is essential. We demand #LICH keep its doors open as stipulated by law.”
In effect, the only elected officials not saying anything about the LICH at this point are Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo. They might be forced to change that soon, if SUNY goes through with their alleged closure plans this weekend. In the meantime, another rally is planned for noon today in front of the hospital.