Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes extended the temporary restraining order barring SUNY Downstate from moving forward with a plan to close Long Island College Hospital (LICH) on Friday, saying that he needed more time to review the evidence before a decision could be made.
More than 60 spectators were in attendance as oral arguments were given by Richard Seltzer, on behalf of the petitioners, and Steven Banks from the NYS Attorney General’s Office, arguing for the respondents.
“This is a case about transparency,” Seltzer said in an article by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “It is a case about the right to hear and the right to observe."
His clients—the NYS Nurses Association, Local 1119 SEIU Healthcare Workers East, and Concerned Physicians of LICH—allege that SUNY's trustees held a “show public hearing” after an executive session at which it had already decided the fate of LICH; that after the public hearing, the board held a “perfunctory public meeting” where it formally voted to close the hospital; and that this public meeting violated the Open Meetings Law because only 60 members of the public were allowed to attend, wrote the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
In his statements representing SUNY boardmemers, Banks noted the President understood “that the closing of LICH is important to the public,” and that the board “accepted public comments on the proposal,” but it was under no obligation to.
After hearing both sides, Judge Baynes determined that while the court was “capable of rendering a decision today,” as a “lesson of discipline,” he would extend the temporary restraining order issued on Feb. 21 and make a ruling later.
“My job is to be a servant of justice,” Baynes said in the article. “I will be fair, impartial, and unbiased. The decision will be delivered expeditiously.”
In the early morning hours prior to the hearing, members of the New York State Nurses Association and residents rallied in the falling snow along with elected officials, including City Council Members Steven Levin, Letitia James, and Brad Lander, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
All expressed public support of the restraining order’s extension.
“This is a victory for the communities served by LICH,” said Jill Furillo, RN, Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands of patients will be negatively impacted by any decision to close LICH.”
President of 1199SEIU George Gresham echoed Furillo’s words.
"We’re continuing to call on the Department of Health to thoroughly explore alternative solutions that will keep LICH open and viable," he said "We need more time to… make sure we maintain LICH's vital healthcare services and good jobs."
Dr. Toomas Sorra, of Concerned Physicians for LICH also said in the release:
“LICH is full or overcrowded virtually all the time, and the care—as documented in the US News & World Report national hospital survey—is of the highest quality. Patients, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, community organizations and elected representatives are unified behind our efforts to encourage government to keep LICH a viable health care provider well into the future, as it has been since the Civil War.”
To join the fight to help save LICH from your cell phone, text "LICH" to 877-877, tweeted Councilman Brad Lander.