De Blasio Wins Right to Intervene in Hospital Dispute
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and six community groups have been granted permission to intervene in the ongoing dispute over the future of the Long Island College Hospital. But labor unions representing employees of the LICH were turned down.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest agreed with de Blasio, a candidate for mayor, that his office has a legitimate role in the case "as a representative of [the] public interest." Her decision comes less than a month after a colleague, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, held in a parallel action that de Blasio lacks standing to bring an Article 78 proceeding to challenge the impending shutdown of the hospital (NYLJ, Sept. 17).
The two Brooklyn judges are presiding over different actions with a similar goal: saving the hospital, an important element of the community's healthcare network for the past 155 years, but one that the state says is hemorrhaging taxpayer money at a rate of $19 million a month.
LICH is part of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center network, which has eliminated most of the hospital's operations and is seeking a buyer. Various advocates, including community groups and de Blasio, are fighting to restore hospital services and ultimately keep it open.
The case before Demarest, Matter of The Long Island College Hospital, 9188/11, began about two years ago when the judge allowed the insolvent hospital to transfer its assets to SUNY.
But Demarest, who said her 2011 approval was based on the belief that SUNY-Downstate would keep the hospital open, is reconsidering her prior order. Demarest in August said she had a "legal and moral responsibility" to reverse her previous decision, especially after visiting the hospital herself and witnessing the "travesty" of ambulances being turned away (NYLJ, Aug. 22).
In her most recent decision, Demarest said SUNY-Downstate "has essentially reneged upon its purported commitment" to maintain health services at LICH. SUNY denies it made any commitment to the court to continue operating LICH and the matter is slated for a hearing. The public advocate, several community groups and labor unions sought to intervene over the objections of SUNY-Downstate.
De Blasio argued that §24(f) of the New York City Charter gives him the authority to bring actions impacting the delivery of key services, such as health care, to New Yorkers.
"The Public Advocate indicated that the LICH closure has resulted in numerous complaints from the public, including the discontinuation of ambulance services to LICH's emergency room," Demarest wrote.
Demarest noted that Baynes in Matter of de Blasio v. State University of New York, 13007/13, found that the public advocate lacks authority to initiate an Article 78 proceeding against a state agency (NYLJ, Sept. 17).