NYSNA: NYU ignored commitment to rehire LICH nurses

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State Supreme Court Justice Laura L. Jacobson. Photo by Sam Newhouse.

The nurses’ union has delayed SUNY’s transfer of the walk-in emergency department at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to NYU-Langone Medical Center.

State Supreme Court Justice Laura L. Jacobson on Wednesday granted nurses at LICH a temporary restraining order to “maintain the status quo” there for two weeks, stalling SUNY’s attempts to wash its hands of the Cobble Hill hospital for a while longer.

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) says that Fortis Property Group and its partner NYU-Langone Medical Center violated a promise to rehire LICH nurses after SUNY shut down the hospital.

Nurses called the TRO a victory.

Justice Jacobson ruled that the SUNY must continue to operate the walk-in emergency unit at LICH “and not cause the layoff of nurses currently employed at LICH” until Sept. 12 at 2 p.m., when Justice Johnny Lee Baynes is scheduled to be back from his summer vacation.

If Justice Baynes – who has been overseeing the complex litigation surrounding SUNY’s closure and sale of LICH — is available earlier than Sept. 12, the hearing may be moved forward.

As part of a deal to sell the LICH campus to Fortis, SUNY had planned to turn over the emergency department, all that remains of the hospital, to NYU-Langone Medical Center on Monday, Sept. 1. The TRO throws a wrench into this timetable.

In Fortis’ proposal for the LICH campus, NYU had promised to “preserve the legacy of excellent care provided at LICH” by maximizing the number of rehired LICH nurses at the walk-in unit.

However, NYU “has failed to hire or seek out LICH nurses for positions at the facility,” the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said in a statement. Nurses told the Eagle that they saw non-union job positions listed on the Internet, bypassing them entirely.

A person familiar with the case said that when NYSNA “filed these papers two days ago, they were going to lay off everybody.”

A nurse told the Brooklyn Eagle that most of the positions at the walk-in ER were filled already. “They’ve hired one LICH nurse.”

“NYU is not living up to its commitment,” NYSNA attorney Richard Seltzer told the judge. He said that SUNY had attempted to establish a meeting with NYU and NYSNA, but had so far been unsuccessful.

SUNY attorney Frank Carone told Justice Jacobson that SUNY “tried to meet with NYU yesterday, but were unsuccessful.”

He assured the judge that SUNY was “committed to the content and objectives of the RFP,” and supports the “full employment of the nurses.”

“I’m sure the nurses in the courtroom are very happy to hear that,” Justice Jacobson said.

SUNY spokesperson David Doyle said in a statement on Wednesday, “SUNY has always been committed to ensuring a smooth transition to the new health care operators at the LICH site and will continue to maintain current patient services. Efforts to finalize the deal and bring a viable, long-term, and high quality health care solution for the community are ongoing. SUNY remains in constant contact with all parties and will continue to do so until a final agreement is reached.”

NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo said in a statement, “This Temporary Restraining Order is a victory for LICH patients and the nurses who care for them.

“Fortis and NYU were selected to take over Long Island College Hospital based on commitments they made to the community, patients, nurses, and the State University of New York.  But Fortis and NYU have reneged on their commitments– from their promise to provide affordable housing to their clearly stated intention of maintaining continuity of care by employing LICH nurses,” Furillo said.

“NYSNA nurses have stood with our patients for more than two years to protect healthcare services at LICH – we even got arrested last year in our fight to save our vital community hospital,” she added. “NYU cannot preserve quality care for LICH patients without the skilled and experienced nurses who have shown our unwavering commitment to this community. It is unconscionable for NYU to punish LICH nurses for being outspoken patient advocates.”

In the future, Fortis will lease from 80,000 to 90,000 square feet to NYU and Lutheran Family Services in a new building. This future site is to house the free-standing ER, clinics, a cancer treatment center and a small number of observation beds. Until then, walk-in ER services will be provided from the current LICH ER area.

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