SUNY’s Carone: Doc group ‘discredited’

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Cynthia Nebel, a member of Patients for LICH, at a rally last week in front of state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Brooklyn Heights. Photo by Dipti Kumar

The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Brooklyn Heights on Friday dismissed the appeal of a doctors group seeking to block the sale of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) to a developer.

The Concerned Physicians of LICH had hoped to overturn the State University of New York’s (SUNY) decision to award the hospital property to Fortis Property Group. SUNY trustees voted to approve the sale to Fortis for $240 million in June 2014.

The Concerned Physicians are one of many local community and health care groups that fought for more than two years to save the historic Cobble Hill hospital, now shuttered.

The Appeals Court judges ruled that the Concerned Physicians were not a party to an order of the Supreme Court in the LICH case.

The doctors and their supporters say the fight is not yet over. On Monday, Dr. Toomas Sorra, president of Concerned Physicians, and Dr. Douglas Sepkowitz, a member and representative of the group, sent a letter to the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and attorneys for SUNY to advise them that they intend to move on with new litigation. They are requesting that the attorney general delay any final decision to approve the sale of LICH.

In their letter to the AG and SUNY, the doctors wrote, “The motion we will file this week will ask the Court simply to ‘uphold the literal language of the Stipulation & Order.’”

In March, Dr. Sepkowitz told the Brooklyn Eagle, “We gave up contempt charges against SUNY to get a new RFP with the purpose of getting a full-service hospital. It was understood by all, overseen by Justice Baynes, approved and applauded by the newly-elected mayor. But the RFP had rules: more points were to be given to full-service hospital proposals. That’s not what we got. The deal made in February did not abide by the rules of the RFP (Request for Proposals).”

SUNY’s attorney Frank Carone disagrees. “I believe the Concerned Physicians have been, from their actions throughout this litigation through today, discredited by the court and the community,” he told the Eagle on Tuesday.

“I can’t comment on their threat of a new action, as I haven’t seen it yet, but we will continue to live by the plain meaning of the words of the settlement agreement as understood by the signers,” Carone said. “If they persist we will protect SUNY’s rights under the settlement agreement, and all ancillary partners.”

Derek Oubre, president of one of the losing bidders, Trindade Value Partners, told the Eagle on Monday, “We’ve made it abundantly clear that the Attorney General needs to push forward and review the main issues in this case.”

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Photo by Mary Frost

Oubre says the Appellate Court decision “didn’t make sense, when you look at the ample evidence that the Concerned Physicians were in fact a party. Jim Walden [attorney for seven community groups in the litigation] literally said [in court] that Concerned Physicians were in fact a party. 1199 SEIU, when they submitted their papers, listed Concerned Physicians as a party.”

Oubre agrees with the doctors that SUNY’s methodology in awarding LICH to Fortis didn’t match that described in the original stipulation and the RFP that followed.

According to Oubre, the mathematical scoring method required by the stipulation would put his company at the top of the list. Trindade initially was ranked sixth by the bid evaluators. Trindade’s proposal, unlike Fortis’, included a full-service hospital.

Last Thursday, LICH supporters rallied in front of the Appellate Court in Brooklyn Heights, waving signs reading, “Save LICH!” and “We’re still here, we still need a full service hospital.”

Holly Fuchs, corresponding secretary to the Society of Old Brooklynites, attended the rally with wheelchair-bound Alfred Kohler, a former professor at Touro and St. Francis colleges. Fuchs said the LICH ER “was wonderful after Alfred suffered a traumatic brain injury” in a bike accident. “Now, there’s no place to go.”

Patients for LICH member Cynthia Nebel told the Eagle, “The courts failed to enforce the settlement stipulation that called for a full service hospital to be given a higher technical score.”

NYU Langone has been running a walk-in emergency department at the site since last June and plans to expand the facility in 2017 or 2018 to include a “freestanding ER,” outpatient ambulatory surgery, doctors’ offices, labs and a cancer center.

LICH advocates say, however, that a freestanding ER is incapable of handling serious cases without a full-service hospital on site to back it up.

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