Gresham: Don't close the Long Island College Hospital
The State University of New York voted again last week to approve the closure of Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital, saying it’s underutilized. That’s news to Awilda Montes, a scrub nurse who has worked there for 13 years. “This place is packed,” she says. “We are always busy.”
With the right planning, management and vision, the hospital could remain viable — and even thrive. It’s in a growing neighborhood. The Barclays Center, Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal nearby are drawing tens of thousands of visitors and new residents.
The hospital is already highly used by local residents, and more than a third of its patients have private insurance — the second- highest rate in Brooklyn. The hospital provides crucial emergency, obstetric and pediatric services.
Jane McGroarty, a longtime leader of the Brooklyn Heights Association, says “My family has used LICH for three generations, most recently for the birth of one of my grandchildren, and my daughter is planning to deliver her next child there. . . . What will we do in case of an emergency like a heart attack or stroke? It’s impossible to imagine downtown Brooklyn without it.”
The state Medicaid Redesign Team came to the same conclusion, finding not only that Long Island College Hospital should stay open, but that inpatient services should be expanded.
For Montes, SUNY’s efforts to close the hospital are especially frustrating because she has a deep personal investment in the future of the hospital. Like many of the 2,200 hospital staff, she’s not only a caregiver, but also a patient. Her family members are among the 100,000 patients a year who use the hospital.
“Closing LICH will hurt the surrounding community,” Montes says, “but much worse, our patients will lose access to care.” Indeed, the nearest hospital, Brooklyn Hospital, is 1.5 miles away, a 10-minute drive without traffic — a rarity in this part of Brooklyn — which could mean the difference between life and death.
The Department of Health, elected officials, staff and community leaders must work together and explore every alternative, including new ownership, to keep Long Island College Hospital’s vital services and good jobs in the community.
George Gresham is president of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents caregivers at LICH.