A fight over the future of a Brooklyn hospital that potentially affects SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s ability to pay its debt of $154 million recently took two more sharp legal turns, as a judge ordered Downstate to transfer ownership of the money-losing facility -- then reversed the order three days later.
In February the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center said it might run out of money by May. It was losing millions of dollars each month from Long Island College Hospital, one of its three hospitals. It took actions to postpone running out of money and in July the state approved giving Downstate $71 million for fiscal 2013-14.
To handle monetary losses at LICH, Downstate has been reducing the hospital’s bed count. It has said it is seeking other medical providers to take over the buildings with the condition to provide some sort of medical care from them.
Several nurses and doctors have said that Downstate has been trying to close the hospital altogether, applying pressure on them to not accept any sort of patients. Early last week Judge Carolyn Demarest of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn visited the hospital and found that it was diverting emergency patients arriving in ambulances to other hospitals.
Demarest had approved SUNY Downstate’s acquisition of LICH in 2011. She said that when SUNY Downstate took over LICH, it had anticipated losing up to $144 million in the first three years, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Demarest found the ambulance diversion to be unacceptable and wrote that SUNY Downstate has not lived up to its side of the bargain when she approved its takeover of LICH. On Tuesday, Aug. 20 she ordered LICH be transferred back to its previous owner, Continuum Health Services or to another operator.
“Continuum respectfully concludes that we cannot reassume management of LICH and is unable to take responsibility for the hospital’s operations,” said Continuum president Stanley Brezenoff on Aug. 20.
On Thursday Demarest had a conference with interested parties.
In response, on Friday Demarest stayed her earlier order, told SUNY Downstate to not transfer LICH and told SUNY Downstate to open LICH’s intensive care unit by 3 p.m. on Monday.
Demarest also scheduled a further conference on LICH on Sept. 3.
Another judge in the same Brooklyn court has also ordered that SUNY Downstate keep LICH open.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, a SUNY Downstate spokesman said that its lawyers were reviewing Demarest’s Friday decision.