This is a story with copious praise for a hospital disparaged by some who believe they know it well but, like myself before last week, do not.
This is also a story about the importance of beauty and care on the way to restoring health; about saving the most accessible places in our city for the majority, and not for those who would buy public amenities for personal exclusivity.
This is a simple story about how Long Island College Hospital (LICH) restored one person’s health on Thanksgiving weekend, and how Brooklynites need to fully understand what not having a hospital – particularly a 24/7 ER close by – will mean for their health and that of their family.
It is also a warning for those who think that having medical facilities buried inside our borough, away from highways and subways and bus routes, are a solution for a huge percentage of Brooklynites – some 300,000 or so who live along the waterfront down to Red Hook and up through Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Downtown. Or for those who think private hospitals are better and should be given special considerations over public facilities.
At 2 am on Sunday night following Thanksgiving I arrived at LICH’s ER with shortness of breath and chest pressure. Admission took all of 2 minutes – maybe less. I was hurried to a bed, bloods drawn, and EKG taken within a few more minutes.
The ER staff and doctor were attentive, knowledgeable and helpful in sorting out immediate and longer-term concerns. I chose to investigate more at LICH that night/day and there ensued a full battery of tests with state-of-the-art EKG, MRI, X-ray, nuclear and sonogram equipment, and first-rate radiologists and other specialists to interpret the results. While testing key functions, blood work and deciphering results by imaging experts takes time, the tests were done in a methodical fashion to avoid wasted time or duplicative efforts. The cardiologist on-call also came around during one procedure, which was reassuring, though, to be fair, by mid-morning I had complete faith in the radiological and nursing staff that had already taken charge.
I spent several hours looking out at Buttermilk Channel, too, because LICH is located on the crest of Cobble Hill with an uncompromised view of the harbor. That in itself was a joy – the beauty and calm of looking out over water is curative.
Why do we want to bury our hospitals away from beauty and away from basic things like transportation? It makes no sense at all but that is what SUNY Downstate is doing with LICH.
The Governor wants to show a profit for the State – presumably for his next job opportunity – and he is banking on public land-sales to do it. Like selling public park lands for private housing (Brooklyn Bridge Park’s five new condo and hotel buildings are all being readied for construction as this goes to press.) Or our two local libraries readied for sale for more luxury condos. The State also wants to sell our local hospital to private luxury housing developers.
And they think it is because people like you and I don’t believe in LICH. That we really buy the argument that government should give public lands, public facilities, and public infrastructure over to private interests. And that LICH is not a good hospital.
None of this is further from the truth.
NYU professor, Tony Judt wrote in his book, Ill Fares the Land, that the curse of private public partnerships is that it fire-sells public assets and that the public will be forever excluded from the profits of these assets, once sold. That makes perfect sense, but why do our politicians not recognize these simple facts? It is short-term thinking to the extreme.
The job of government and our politicians is to provide basic services for the population. All are connected – our parks, our libraries, our hospitals – as all provide succor for the body, mind and soul. Not to mention true recreation, knowledge and healing.
When did the government get out of the people business anyway?
So, yes, I was really OK – just a wake up call. Yes, I got the complete picture of my health and a plan going forward. Yes, each and every person over the course of an entire day at LICH who pricked and poked and pulled me about was superb. I was really lucky to go to LICH and go in time – not the 20 minutes it would have taken me to get to another hospital if LICH had been closed.
As the sun set over the harbor, with a long neglected American flag flapping against the tree line on Hicks Street, and Liberty silhouetted against sky blue pink, I asked myself, what can anyone do that will make a difference to save LICH and give it the resources it needs to be an even greater hospital? If they close LICH, many other services we take for granted like labs, long-term nursing and rehab facilities, and proximity to excellent doctors, will also go away. But the worst thing of all is that a long journey to emergency services will mean the difference between life and death.
Please call your elected officials starting with Mayor-elect DeBlasio whose arrest on behalf of LICH and subsequent win of higher office is intimately connected – but he needs reminding. You must also call Governor Cuomo in whose hands this closure rests. These numbers are: Mayor DeBlasio (347) 746-2455 or (212) 669-7250; and Governor Cuomo (518) 474-8390.
Judi Francis is a 30-plus year resident of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. She has used LICH doctors and visited the ER for over two decades with her children but had never set foot “upstairs” in the main facility until Thanksgiving weekend. She is grateful beyond words to the entire staff in residence on December 1st and 2nd.