Brooklynites rallied Friday to save a hospital that's been serving the community for more than 150 years. Supporters said they fear it will be shuttered to give another hospital a financial shot in the arm. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
Doctors, nurses and other staff members came out of the hospital on their break or came in on their day off to help fight the closure of Long Island College Hospital, known as LICH.
"I've been working there for 25 years, and it's a wonderful hospital, and we need to stay open," said Robin Ndiaye, an administrative hospital worker.
"I'm committed to this hospital," said Dr. Saul Melman. "It's really important to me. I enjoy working here. I think we provide excellent services through the emergency room."
Fifty-seven thousand people use the emergency room at LICH every year. It's been serving the community for 150 years. So those at the protest, including elected officials, wonder why its future is at stake.
"We are very angry about this," said Joan Rowley, a nurse. "You asked for our loyalty. We've given you loyalty. But I think above and beyond that, all the workers, we need answers."
Brooklynites have rallied before to save LICH, which has been losing money for years. A little more than a year ago, the state brokered a deal to have SUNY Downstate Medical Center take over the hospital.
Now, SUNY Downstate is in financial trouble. A report by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that SUNY Downstate is losing $1 million per week and could be unable to pay its bills come May.
NY1 first reported last week that SUNY officials are now proposing to sell the LICH property, which sources say could bring in some $500 million to help bail out Downstate.
"My fear is that the hospital will close," said Dr. John Romanelli. "My fear is that the state wants the hospital to close."
"This is a short-sighted solution to a very complex problem for this community," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, whose district covers parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. "The borough of Brooklyn deserves better."
This week, a letter was sent to SUNY Chairman Carl McCall demanding a plan must be made to save the hospital. The letter wasn't just signed by elected officials representing the area, but by about 30 elected officials from across the borough.