NEW YORK NURSE: December 2008
by Mark Genovese
Registered nurses and other staff of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) have won their fight to stop the closing of several of the facility’s vital community services. The New York State Department of Health (DOH) told LICH’s corporate parent, Continuum Health Partners, on Nov. 17 that its plan to close the hospital’s obstetrics, neonatal, and pediatric services “is not acceptable at this time.”
Continuum said it wanted to close the units because the hospital was losing too much money. Nurses countered that these services are essential to the rapidly growing community.
“Veteran nurses are being laid off who are experts in their specialties with a wealth of experience, many with more than 20 years,” said Julie Semente, a member of the NYSNA executive committee at LICH. “They’ll move on to other facilities where they’ll be valued and our community will lose them permanently. It seems very clear to us that Continuum’s Manhattan executives are not concerned about the Brooklyn community.”
Nurses said the hospital was in the red because Continuum has been redirecting LICH’s revenue to its Manhattan facilities and corporate operations. During the past decade, Continuum has done away with LICH’s board of directors and replaced Brooklyn representatives on its corporate board with Manhattan residents. Continuum is also planning to sell some of the hospital’s properties in neighborhoods considered attractive for real estate development.
NYSNA members have joined with community representatives and elected public officials in an outreach campaign to keep the services open. They have worked at the Atlantic Antic summer street fair to collect signatures on petitions and spoke extensively at town hall meetings, public hearings, and meetings with community boards and neighborhood associations. They also have conducted a letter-writing campaign to Gov. Paterson, state legislative leaders, City Council members, and representative to the U.S. Congress, offering personal stories to illustrate why LICH needs to stay open.
The DOH confirmed the nurses’ assertion that there is currently insufficient capacity in Brooklyn to provide these services should they be closed. Continuum was also ordered to continue the hospital’s school health clinics – it had planned to end funding at the end of the calendar year – and to find a corporate sponsor for them. The state will provide Continuum with $3 million loan to help it stabilize LICH’s finances.
“LICH’s registered nurses fought hard to help win this battle,” said Lorraine Seidel, director of NYSNA’s Economic and General Welfare Program. “This was a great victory for the community, but we’re only halfway there. Continuum is still draining LICH’s resources dry and selling the Brooklyn community short in the process.”
Seidel added that the community still needs to keep the heat on by pressuring elected officials to respond to the message that NYSNA nurses’ are sending on behalf of their patients: “We want LICH brought back to its former level of access to quality care.”
The LICH medical staff has developed a plan for disaffiliating LICH from Continuum and running the hospital on their own. If you would like to support efforts to keep LICH open, you can sign the petition at www.lichmedicalstaff.org/save_LICH.php.