“A Legal and Moral Responsibility” to set LICH right, by George Fiala

August 20 – In a completely unexpected court ruling, the Judge who originally gave Long Island College Hospital to SUNY Downstate, today took it back.

Jill Furillo of NYSNA, speaking at today's press event announcing Judge Demarest's decision

Jill Furillo of NYSNA, speaking at today’s press event announcing Judge Demarest’s decision

State Supreme Court Judge Carolyn DeMarest, appointed by governor Mario Cuomo in 1990, signed an eight page order detailing all the reasons that SUNY Downstate did not live up to their promises when she signed the order transferring to them the LICH property.

This was announced at a press conference this afternoon in front of the New York State Nursing Association (NYSNA), 131 West 33rd Street in Manhattan. Jill Furillo explained that the ruling takes away the hospital from SUNY, and that the particulars will be decided in court this Thursday. A new caretaker will be chosen. The judge recommended Continuum, which had owned LICH previous to SUNY and which is now in the process of being subsumed into the Mount Sinai Health System. A reporter read aloud a statement from Continuum that he received on his phone saying that Continuum was not interested to resume stewardship of LICH.

While the particulars remain to be figured out, the forfeiture of a hospital by misrepresentation, mismanagement and dishonesty would seem to be a rare event. The decision is extremely well written and best tells Judge Demarest’s story:

“As I have become aware of the events over the past several months concerning the demise of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) at the hands of the State University of New York-Downstate (SUNY Downstate), I have been increasingly concerned as to the propriety of my own order granting approval of the transfer of LICH’s assets to SUNY-Downstate, in light of Downstate’s apparent lack of stewardship over those assets in the advancement of LICH’s charitable purpose.

Just a few days ago I visited the LICH campus in order to familiarize myself with teh circumstances, and observed, in just the brief few minutes that I was there, the arrival and diversion of several ambulances, presumable containing persons in critical need of medical care. Such refusal to accept and treat these people is a travesty of the mission of LICH, a venerable institution established a hundred and fifty-five years ago to provide medical care to those in need of it.

Upon review and scrutiny of the information recently made public about SUNY-Downstate’s financial condition and its treatment of LICH, as well as the documents originally filed with this Court in support of LICH’s petition to transfer its assets to SUNY, I have determined that I have a legal and moral responsibility to correct my earlier error and hereby render the following decision sua sponte.”

The judge then laid out a timeline starting with her entry into the case two years ago. Her job was to approve the transfer of LICH assets from Continuum to SUNY. She was assured by the LICH lawyer that SUNY would be a very good caretaker for LICH, continuing with their mission of serving the people of Brooklyn.

She wrote that she was misled about the financial condition of Downstate. She writes that had she known of their own dire financial distress, she would have never approved the merger. A sinking ship will clutch at anything to stay afloat – and thus in retrospect it makes perfect sense that SUNY’s desire from the beginning was to kill LICH and sell off it’s properties. Demarest doesn’t say this definitively, but throughout her decision there is a strong suspicion that this indeed was the case. This in fact is the reason that SUNY will not appeal this decision – they know they have lost. Their statements to the press yesterday were very self-serving – to the effect that this is what they wanted all along. However, one can only use logic to see that their actions belie this. They ordered the hospital closed last February. When there was protest and court actions, they ignored, flagrantly, as the judge put it, all the court actions and continued with their destruction of LICH, with the obvious desire of leaving vacant buildings for real estate development. LICH sold off would bring SUNY a tremendous cash windfall. LICH transferred to another operator would bring much less. In the end, they are getting nothing. Which is only fitting, since they paid nothing. They will probably have to return all the money that they stole from LICH’s endowments, as well.

This case began with Judge Demarest demanding an accounting of SUNY’s finances as pertaining to LICH. She was the original judge who ordered LICH’s assets to be transferred to SUNY in 2011. As she wrote in her original demand for the accounting, she was dismayed by press reports speculating on SUNY’s plundering of the hospital, and wanted to find out what was going on.

On August 5th, SUNY delivered those documents. At the time, the issue was that they had redacted certain sections, claiming that the material was ‘sensitive.’ It was assumed that on August 20th, Demarest would decide whether the material that was redacted, or blanked out, must be disclosed. However, in the time between August 5th and August 20th, SUNY’s actions were even more outrageous – what with the increase in armed guards, continued violations of Judge Baynes’ court orders, and their public statements. In addition, Demarest visited the LICH campus and saw for herself what the nurses, doctors, and certain reporters knew, and instead of a technical decision, she issued a blockbuster, ‘jaw-dropping’ as was written in Crains, NY.

On Thursday, the parties will get together in Justice Demarest’s chambers to figure out the next step – who will operate the hospital, etc. SUNY still has a possibility of contempt of court action against them, plus a DA investigation. One can imagine that at this point, Governor Cuomo and his friends wish they had never heard of the Long Island College Hospital – if the correct story ever gets out, their greed and willful disdain for the public will not sit well with future voters.

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One Response to “A Legal and Moral Responsibility” to set LICH right, by George Fiala

  1. Michael K. says:

    SUNY should be prosecuted and sued for all the distress they have caused the hospital workers and community. They are so dirty (or at least the higher ups are) – it really makes me sick.

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