Follows SUNY vs. NYSNA hearing in Brooklyn on Thursday

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The sale of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) was uncertain after NYU pulled out of the deal with Fortis Property Group late Thursday. Photo by Mary Frost.

In yet another twist to the long-running Long Island College Hospital (LICH) saga, NYU Langone Medical Center announced late Thursday that it has pulled out of the deal to offer emergency services and ambulatory care at the LICH site in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

The withdrawal appears to leave the Fortis Property Group’s proposal to buy LICH in tatters. While the proposal did not include a hospital,Fortis won the bid to buy the Cobble Hill hospital campus substantially on the strength of the medical offerings proposed by NYU.

NYU said in a statement that their decision came after state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes on Thursday “ordered NYU Langone’s direct involvement in the lawsuit between New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and State University of New York (SUNY).”

In that lawsuit, NYSNA demanded that SUNY enforce a commitment by NYU to rehire LICH nurses at a walk-in emergency department at LICH. Nurses said that NYU failed to reach out to them, however, and SUNY disputed that the commitment to rehire them was mandatory.  (The full report of Thursday’s hearing may be found here.)

NYU said, “We fear this would ultimately force NYU Langone to remove the highly qualified nursing staff we had hired and constrain our ability to choose nurses who meet our standards.”

Justice Baynes said at the end of Thursday’s hearing that he was hoping both sides could reach a settlement out of court before he made his decision in the case. In the meantime, the operation of the walk-in emergency department remained in SUNY’s hands. SUNY had hoped to hand it off to NYU on September 1.

Afterward the hearing, McCall fretted that the nurses’ suit was gumming up the deal. “NYU is offering substantial services. They might decide not to do this,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Later that day, his prediction came true.

”This is an unfortunate and unnecessary situation,” David Doyle, spokesperson for SUNY, said in a statement on Friday.  “A highly complicated health care transaction that would have brought world class patient services and jobs to Brooklyn and was many months in the making unraveled. There are no winners. Cobble Hill could have had 21st century health care, yet is left with uncertainty. SUNY students and campuses are left with a massive financial burden.  The future of the facility is uncertain and SUNY will assess all available options it is entitled to under the stipulation and order.”

Jill Furillo, executive director of NYSNA, said in a statement, “NYU’s unwillingness to live up to the commitments made in the proposal at this early stage in the process was a terrible omen for the future of care for the community served by LICH. How could LICH patients trust NYU to live up to any of its commitments in the long run if NYU was already failing to keep its word?

Furillo added that NYU’s real motivation is not clear, since Fortis and NYU had still not finished an overall deal on the takeover of LICH.

“We call on federal and state prosecutors to investigate every aspect of Cuomo’s LICH shenanigans: the false financial claims, the fix for Fortis, the detachment of the Othmer Endowment from LICH, all of it,” said Jeff Strabone, spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association, one of the six community litigant groups in the two-year fight to keep LICH open as a hospital.

“If NYU’s statement is true, I’m now concerned with what happens to LICH ER services, the little there is, and the staff,” said Sue Raboy, the founder and former member of the advocacy group Patients for LICH, speaking for herself. “Can SUNY close up and walk away? But I also want to yell at NYU that hiring LICH nurses will enable them to provide excellent medical care.”

Parties to the litigation are now consulting with their attorneys to consider their next move.

SUNY had previously disqualified two bidders which ranked higher than Fortis in a much-litigated RFP process: Brooklyn Health Partners, which came in first, and Peebles Corporation, ranked second. SUNY said these two bidders promised services that they couldn’t deliver — a contention both companies furiously opposed.

The bidder which came in fourth, Prime Healthcare Foundation, sought to operate LICH as a full-service hospital.

Statements from NYU and NYSNA follow:

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Statement on Behalf of NYU Langone:

Despite the good faith efforts of so many stakeholders and the SUNY Board of Trustees and Administration, NYU Langone Medical Center today announced it has withdrawn from negotiations to operate emergency services and ambulatory care at the site of the former Long Island College Hospital.  Brooklyn deserves the highest quality health care — and NYU Langone was fully committed to this effort.

We were prepared to take over operations of the existing Emergency Department once our agreement was finalized and all approvals were obtained, having already expended significant resources to substantially renovate the existing Emergency Department, to purchase equipment, and to assemble a first-class medical staff for the ED.  We had hired 99 staff, which included 60 positions for Local 1199 union staff, and 25 registered nurses, each highly qualified with a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and emergency medicine or medical/surgical experience, including seven who are former or current LICH RNs.

This evening the Court ordered NYU Langone’s direct involvement in the lawsuit between New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and State University of New York (SUNY).  We fear this would ultimately force NYU Langone to remove the highly qualified nursing staff we had hired and constrain our ability to choose nurses who meet our standards.

Given the additional complexities introduced by the recent litigation, it is clear to us that we will be unable to conclude the transaction, and provide the highest quality medical and nursing care that is our standard, even with the best of intentions and the commitment of the full resources of our institution.  Although we are extremely disappointed that our efforts to provide excellent health care at the site were impeded, nevertheless we remain committed to ensuring excellent medical care to the people who live and work in Brooklyn.

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Statement from NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo, RN:

NYSNA nurses at LICH, alongside 1199SEIU caregivers, doctors, patients and elected leaders, have fought tirelessly for two years to protect care for their patients — even getting arrested to keep our beloved hospital open for care. Instead of welcoming these incredible nurse heroes, NYU tried to punish them for their activism, advocacy, and devotion to their patients and to the community.

Now, NYU has walked away from its commitment to Brooklyn patients.

NYSNA’s motion concerned commitments NYU made as part of the Fortis proposal. The court properly and appropriately took the motion seriously and sought to give all parties, including NYU, a full opportunity to make their views known. NYU apparently took offense at the prospect of being asked to live up to its word.

NYU’s unwillingness to live up to the commitments made in the proposal at this early stage in the process was a terrible omen for the future of care for the community served by LICH. How could LICH patients trust NYU to live up to any of its commitments in the long run if NYU was already failing to keep its word?

In reality, Fortis and NYU had still not finished an overall deal on the takeover of LICH so the real motivation of NYU’s decision is not clear, and may not be for some time, regardless statements in the press.

LICH nurses have a proven track record for quality care and commitment in the community. We are ready work with any healthcare provider that will join us in protecting care for Brooklyn patients and preserving the legacy of excellent care at LICH provided by dedicated nurses and caregivers.

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