The State University of New York promised to restore ambulance service to Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital on Friday after opponents of the facility's closure threatened legal action, arguing the cancellation violated a Sept. 4 court order.
SUNY owns the hospital through its New York City medical affiliate SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which has about $150 million in debt outstanding and has been losing money with LICH since acquiring it in 2011.
SUNY Downstate's attempts to either shut down or sell LICH have been blocked, as courts sided with unions and community groups seeking to maintain hospital service in the area.
New York City Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, who was elected mayor in a landslide earlier this week, was among the defenders of keeping the hospital open. On Sept. 4 a court ordered the hospital to resume emergency room and intensive-care unit services. SUNY appealed and in October a higher court affirmed the service order.
On Nov. 1 SUNY announced layoffs at the hospital, according to New York State Nurses Association communications staffer Carl Ginsburg. Opponents of the hospital's closure threatened legal action. After negotiations, SUNY said the layoffs would be delayed.
On Wednesday night a SUNY Downstate leader told the staff to stop admissions and ambulance visits to the hospital. Some ambulances visited the hospital to take patients to nearby hospitals, according to two people familiar with the situation.
"Last night, because of a shortage of medical specialists, measures were taken in conjunction with the Fire Department of New York to ensure that Long Island College Hospital did not receive patients beyond its capabilities," said SUNY communications director Ronald Najman.
On Thursday the New York State Nurses Association, health care workers union 1199 SEIU, Concerned Physicians of LICH, and the Office of the New York City Public Advocate were preparing to file a court case, according to Ginsburg. It would ask the court to find SUNY Downstate in contempt of court for its actions at LICH.
The lawyers for both sides had planned to attend a court hearing at 3 p.m. on Thursday. However, even as they were negotiating the hearing, it had been postponed, Ginsburg said.
"The day-to-day situation at LICH remains fluid and will continue to be until there is clear resolution of the many complicated issues involving the future of the facility," Najman said. "SUNY is making every possible effort to safely maintain current levels of service until such an agreement can be reached."
"This is the second time in a week that SUNY trustees acted in a way that undercut LICH's ability to stay open and serve the area's community," said Jill Furillo, executive director of the nurse's association. "That needs to stop once and for all."