SUNY Downstate on Thursday stopped receiving ambulances at the financially strapped Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, a day after a judge ruled the hospital must maintain its staffing. NY1's Vivian Lee filed the following report.
Long Island College Hospital was off limits to ambulances Thursday morning, as SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which runs the hospital, said it was no longer in a position to treat emergency cases brought in by paramedics. The ambulance diversions began at 6 a.m.
"They have to go to hospitals that are further away, and that's dangerous," said Adam Viars, an EMT.
SUNY Downstate has been trying to shut down the hospital, known as LICH, for months, saying it's losing millions of dollars a year.
A SUNY spokesman said the chief medical officer at LICH decided that what he called an "exodus" of medical staff jeopardized patient care. He didn't provide numbers, and many members of the staff disputed that characterization of their readiness to take patients.
"We have appropriate number of physicians and nurses staffing the hospital right now, and I don't see any change at all in the services being delivered," said Dr. Leonard Novarro of LICH.
"We have a set of triplets in there now who may, they may have to be delivered emergently at any time, and we do have the staff to take care of those babies," said Dr. Alice Garner of LICH.
The ambulance diversion began even after a state supreme court judge issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday, directing LICH to keep staffing levels up. It followed an earlier order from the same judge to stop all action to shut LICH down.
The nurses' union said the ambulance diversions are a direct violation of those orders, but SUNY Downstate said it's had to end its residency program for new doctors, saying too many complained they were being overworked because the the absence of senior staff.
That residents program wraps up its current cycle this weekend. Meanwhile, another court date of July 15 has been set for the lawyers of SUNY Downstate and the lawyers of the various parties suing to keep LICH open.
Hospital lawyers are still deciding how long the ambulance diversions can legally continue.