Judicial About-Face to Save New York Hospital

     BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – A judge kept the 150-year-old Long Island College Hospital open by rescinding its $548 million sale to SUNY Downstate Medical Center – a decision she approved in 2011.
     “I have determined that I have a legal and moral responsibility to correct my earlier error,” Justice Carolyn Demarest wrote for the Kings County Supreme Court.
     She added that a recent visit to the busy Downtown Brooklyn campus helped to change her mind.
     “Just a few days ago I visited the LICH campus in order to familiarize myself with the circumstances and observed, in just the brief few minutes I was there, the arrival and diversion of several ambulances, presumably containing persons in critical need of medical care,” the eight-page opinion states. “Such refusal to accept and treat these people is a travesty of the mission of LICH.”
     Demarest also wondered if the sale of 18-building complex to the State University of New York was done in good faith.
     “The closure of LICH was clearly not contemplated,” she said of her May 13 order. “The wave of enthusiasm for a solution that would preserve LICH may have blinded many to a more sinister purpose to seize its assets and dismantle the hospital.”
     Demarest suggested Continuum Health Partners immediately take over possession of the hospital and resume operation.
     Since Continuum has said it does not want the hospital, Demarest suggested appointment of a caretaker to fill that need.
     On Thursday morning, two days after her ruling, Demarest held a conference to address the “orderly and expeditious return of assets to LICH” and its future operation.
     The judge had asked SUNY to report on the status of the hospital after she approved the transfer of the hospital.
     She said financial documents showed SUNY lost about $30 million in its first two years of ownership.
     SUNY’s intent to shutter the hospital within two years of the transfer violated its commitment, the judge added, noting that it was hard to determine if that decision was a result of “incompetence” or circumstances beyond SUNY-Downstate’s control.
     “This court finds that SUNY-Downstate has breached its contractual obligations as represented in the petition and there has been a failure of consideration,” Demarest wrote.
     “Indeed, it was the representation that, as a state agency, SUNY-Downstate would be able to minimize its costs and absorb the additional losses resulting from the operation of LICH, that purportedly justified the transfer of LICH’s assets so as to avoid inevitable bankruptcy,” she added.
     SUNY had moved to close the hospital to stop the blood-letting. A months-long court battle ensued.
     The decision was heralded by the New York State Nurses Association and other groups representing hospital workers, who marched and rallied over the summer in protest of the hospital’s closing.

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