Judge Enjoins Closing of Brooklyn Hospital
A judge in Brooklyn has permanently enjoined the state Health Department or State University of New York from acting on any plan to shut down the Long Island College Hospital (LICH).
In the latest decision in an ongoing controversy over the insolvent health care facility, and whether the state university system can be compelled to keep the hospital open and continue to incur monthly losses exceeding $15 million, Brooklyn Acing Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes invited the plaintiffs to seek attorney fees under the New York State Equal Access to Justice Act.
Baynes is presiding over part of a dispute over the down-sizing of LICH, a financially ailing facility operated under the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center umbrella of colleges and health care institutions.
Last month, Baynes rejected the Health Department's interpretation of a regulation requiring hospitals to provide 90 days notice to the commissioner and obtain written approval before shutting down. The department views NYCRR §401.3(g) as a notice provision, while Baynes considers it an oversight provision.
In two orders issued Monday, Baynes said the provision is unconstitutionally vague (see New York State Nurses Association v. Department of Health, 5814/2013, and De Blasio v. State University of New York, 13007/13). His orders bar SUNY from proceeding under a downsizing plan submitted to the Health Department and suggest that the plaintiffs, including several community groups, may be entitled to compensation for their legal expenses.
Robert Bellafiore of Stanhope Partners, a public relations consulting firm that represents SUNY, said SUNY will appeal and seek an automatic stay.
But Bellafiore said the "systemic problems facing this hospital and others in Brooklyn will not be solved in the legal system." He said "SUNY needs the freedom to work with the Department of Health to address these issues head on."
Arnold & Porter partner Jeffrey Ruggiero, who represents one of the plaintiffs, Concerned Physicians of LICH, said Baynes' orders are a "victory for all the citizens of New York as well as for those in Brooklyn because they will bring much needed consistency to the state's hospital closure process."