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Judge Orders LICH Ownership Change, But Named Operator Says No

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A judge ruled Tuesday that SUNY Downstate breached its contractual obligations and ordered it to give up ownership and operation of Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital but the partnership that the judge ruled LICH should be transferred to has said they cannot take over management.

The judge vacated an order from May 13, 2011 that put SUNY Downstate in charge of managing LICH.

SUNY Downstate had been fighting in court to close the facility against stiff community opposition.

Judge Carolyn Demarest said that the transfer was based on the understanding that SUNY continue to operate LICH as a hospital, and that that consideration failed because the court may have been "deliberately misled."

SUNY, Demarest wrote, expected to sustain additional losses of $144.4 million when it entered the deal, but only lost about $30 million so far because of LICH.

Demarest wrote, "The wave of enthusiasm for a solution that would preserve LICH may have blinded many to a more sinister purpose to seize its assets and dismantle the hospital."

SUNY Downstate, however, countered that in its own statement.

"This is not about profits over patients, or a real estate deal, it is just the opposite," their statement read, in part.

SUNY said it's part of a broader plan to restructure Downstate to continue vital medical education and care.

Still, SUNY called the judge's order a move towards its own exit strategy.

In a statement, SUNY Downstate said it had "the best of intentions" when it acquired Long Island College Hospital, and they said they were disappointed that it did not work out.

"SUNY has poured millions of dollars into LICH in an attempt to reverse nearly two decades of financial losses. Unfortunately, SUNY and LICH became victims of the daunting realities of Brooklyn's health care delivery landscape. We are disappointed it did not work, but it was not for lack of effort," SUNY's statement reads in part.

The judge has ruled that the hospital should be transferred to Continuum, a partnership of some of the city's biggest hospitals: St. Luke's Hospital, Roosevelt Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center.

However, Continuum released a statement saying that they cannot take over management of the hospital.

"Continuum Health Partners received Judge Demarest's decision and order in the matter of the Application of Long Island College Hospital today. Upon due consideration, Continuum respectfully concludes that we cannot reassume management of LICH and is unable to take responsibility for the hospital's operations," Continuum's statement reads.

The New York State Nurses Association welcomed the judge's order.

"The nurses were either crying, yelling or jumping up and down, overjoyed with the news today," said one person.

Long Island College Hospital operates at near closure right now, with just 8 of 506 beds filled.

The state Health Commissioner would have to approve the transfer.

The judge has scheduled a meeting on Thursday to discuss the details of the transfer of property and the transfer of management of LICH.

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