NEW YORK—Ambulances can no longer take patients to Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn—and in the coming months Interfaith in Bedford-Stuyvesant may also stop receiving ambulances, and seeing new patients.
Both LICH and Interfaith are in financial crisis, and both hospitals serve high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients. The hospitals’ troubles have attracted political support from unions and public officials, with a number of politicians being arrested in the last few weeks during protests to keep the hospitals open.
Interfaith said state funding cuts to Medicaid reimbursements were to blame, but SUNY Downstate, which owns LICH, said Medicaid was not the problem; employee contracts negotiated with the state through unions had more of an impact on its operating expenses.
LICH has been losing $15 million per month, and Interfaith has been losing $1.5 million per month.
A spokeswoman for Interfaith said more than 95 percent of the hospital’s patients have Medicaid or are uninsured. She said the state of New York is the hospital’s only source of funding, and it had cut Medicaid reimbursements by 40 percent from 2010 to 2012.
“So that’s what happened to us,” she said. “What we were being paid did not pay for the services that were being rendered.”
Residents Lose Health Care
LICH’s closure would cause almost 80,000 residents to lose 230 active beds and have longer trips to the hospital in an emergency. The hospital barred ambulances from bringing patients to its emergency room June 20. The emergency room is still open, for walk-in patients, but the hospital has already cut services and staff across the board, to reduce its operating costs.
Interfaith’s closure would cause 175,000 Brooklyn residents to lose 287 beds. Interfaith also provides for the third-largest number of mental health discharges in Brooklyn, representing approximately 42 percent of its outpatient services.
“When it comes to health care, location, location, location, right? You have to have it near you. When it comes to emergency care it has to be near you,” Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said at a rally at LICH on Aug. 5.
Israel Miranda, president of the Uniformed EMT’s, Paramedics, and Inspectors—F.D.N.Y. Local 2507 said “It is very unfortunate when any community is going to lose important resources.”
He said they went through something similar a couple of years ago in Queens and EMS workers had to “pick up the slack over there,” but he has yet to hear complaints from his 3,000 members about the situation in Brooklyn.
De Blasio has filed a number of temporary restraining orders to keep LICH open. He said the legal action had helped, and every time he goes back to court they are affirmed.
Judy Lieberman, one of the three remaining radiation therapists at LICH, said that if it wasn’t for all the public officials drawing attention to the cause, LICH would have already shut down.
A spokesman for SUNY Downstate, said that at the start of this year LICH was losing $4 million per month, but now the losses have grown to $15 million per month.
“LICH has been losing money for 17 years,” he said. “LICH was going to close two years ago,” before SUNY took over operations, he said.
SUNY Downstate is trying to sell LICH, and has issued a notice calling for a new vendor to continue to operate the hospital, or to buy the buildings and operate a hospital in a nearby location.
Interfaith filed for bankruptcy last December, and has a court hearing Aug. 15 that will decide if the hospital can start to execute its closure plan.
If the court petition on Aug. 15 is successful, Interfaith will start closing proceedings. According to a court document, Interfaith would discharge or transfer all patients by Sept. 12, and ambulatory care services would continue through Oct. 12.