On Friday, Long Island College Hospital looked to be at death’s door, with doctors at the Cobble Hill hospital reporting that they’d received orders to immediately start transferring their remaining patients to other facilities. That was despite a temporary restraining order that should have kept the hospital open and fully operational. Parent company SUNY Downstate denied the closure was imminent, calling it “a rumor” and “patently false.” Then SUNY added, almost as an afterthought, that there were only 18 patients left in the hospital, that it was definitely going to be closed by July 28, and in the meantime it would also continue diverting ambulances away from the emergency room.
That’s when Public Advocate, mayoral candidate, and Sam the Eagle dead-ringer Bill de Blasio got mad.
Late Friday, de Blasio went before state Supreme Court Justice Johnny L. Baynes, who granted him yet another temporary restraining order to keep LICH open. At a press conference Sunday, de Blasio, surrounded by a sign-holding crowd, said, “We saw that SUNY would not abide by the previous court orders, and was trying every trick in the book to keep moving to a closure.”
And according to de Blasio and others, those tricks continued over the weekend. LICH’s Chief of General Internal Medicine, Dr. Robert Levey, told NY1 that he’d received a call from SUNY’s chairman of medicine, telling him to start discharging a few more patients. He declined.
Now, once again, de Blasio’s mad as hell. At the Sunday presser, he announced that he’d go back before the judge first thing Monday, “with evidence that this order from Friday has been violated by SUNY. And we are going to ask the judge not only to deepen this TRO and make abundantly clear to SUNY they’re in violation of law, but to consider holding SUNY officials personally and individually liable.” At that, the crowd around him burst into applause, and chants of “Lock them up! Lock them up!”
We don’t quite know how one would “deepen” a TRO (they usually only come in one depth, those things), but the other part is pretty clear: de Blasio wants SUNY’s management held in contempt of court, which could, in extreme cases, put them in jail. It probably won’t, though. SUNY spokesperson Robert Bellafiore told the Daily News the company would appeal the court order, which would have the effect of retroactively rescinding it. You know, like time travel.
That’s also not really how temporary restraining orders work. But since the closures of community hospitals are deadly serious–in the sense that sometimes people die as a result–we’ll take any sliver of amusement we can get out of this mess.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2013