PUBLIC HEARING OF THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK BOARD OF TRUSTEES STATEMENT OF JEFF STRABONE BOARD MEMBER, COBBLE

HILL ASSOCIATION Friday, November 15, 2013 Good afternoon. My name is Jeff Strabone. I am a board member of the Cobble Hill Association. I thank you for the opportunity to address the Board of Trustees today on matters regarding the relationship between SUNY Downstate and Long Island College Hospital. I would like to make a few points regarding the obligations of New York State and SUNY with regard to health care in Brooklyn. First, medical decisions should be based solely on medical needs. This is true both generally and in the specific case of LICH. In his September 12 decision regarding LICH, Justice Johnny Lee Baynes of Brooklyn state court affirmed this general principle by ruling the Notice Provision unconstitutional. This Provision, 10 NYCRR §401.3(g), is the section of state law that allowed the Commissioner of Health to close hospitals with what Justice Baynes called “unfettered discretion”. Justice Baynes overruled DOH’s closure plan for LICH because, as he put it, DOH “indicates no standards in assuring community health needs are being met”. Justice Baynes was right: public health decisions should be based on need, not greed. LICH is essential for at least two reasons that I believe SUNY has not considered. One reason is that LICH serves Red Hook. Red Hook is a majority Black and Latino neighborhood with below-median household income for New York City. Most relevantly, Red Hook has been designated a Health Professional Shortage Area by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. If you were to close LICH, you would be consigning the Red Hook community to doctor-to-patient ratios that one would expect not in New York but in the Third World. Closing LICH would be an act of racism in public health terms. LICH is also essential to disaster preparedness plans. When Hurricane Sandy flooded Red Hook last year, doctors and nurses from LICH, which is on a very high elevation for Brooklyn, delivered emergency medical attention to storm victims throughout Red Hook. Most of Red Hook is in federal Flood Zone A. Where will these people go when the next flood comes? Along similar lines, if there is ever another 9/11-scale event in lower Manhattan, you will wish that LICH was still open. As Justice Carolyn Demarest reminded the Board in her Decision of August 20, SUNY is obligated to uphold LICH’s charitable mission. If SUNY no longer wishes to operate LICH, then SUNY should not profit from its abdication. LICH is not a real estate asset: it is a hospital with a charitable mission that you accepted when you acquired it.

Testimony of Jeff Strabone

As for claims about LICH’s monetary losses, I must inform the Board that your spokespersons routinely make misrepresentations. It is a lie to say that LICH is the reason for SUNY Downstate’s budget shortfalls. According to the NYS Controller’s January 2013 audit, LICH had operating losses of only $4.7 million for all of 2010, the last full year before being acquired by SUNY (page 10 of the audit). And that was while LICH was paying $30 million a year in malpractice premiums that it no longer pays. Furthermore, Justice Demarest stated in her August 20 Decision that “SUNYDownstate’s actual losses attributable to LICH approximate $30 million dollars at this time”. Yet as recently as yesterday, I read a published report that SUNY claims LICH is losing $13 million a month. How is this possible when the hospital was demonstrably on the rebound before SUNY took over? We know from Downstate President John Williams’s January 14, 2013 letter to the Controller that SUNY has done real estate appraisals of the LICH land. I quote: “DMC [Downstate] does have recent appraisals that show values of the PPE [Property Plant and Equipment] ranging from $280-$500 million, which results in assets exceeding liabilities.” —January 14, 2013 letter from John Williams to NYS Controller’s office Source: page 18 of http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093013/12s72.pdf We know, too, from SUNY Downstate’s February 28, 2013 presentation “A Future for Downstate Medical Center” that SUNY is planning to close LICH in order to build another hospital elsewhere. I quote: Phase 2 […] b) Cease inpatient operations at LICH. […] Phase 3 […] Explore the potential of the consortium to develop a new hospital for central/northern Brooklyn. Source: http://www.suny.edu/Board_of_Trustees/webcastdocs/9%20%20Future%20for%20Downstate%20Medical%20Center.pdf In short, as Justice Demarest has suggested, SUNY is destroying LICH by design. I ask you to stop this unjust, foolish, and racist act. LICH is needed where it is. The health of South Brooklyn should not be sacrificed to pay for Albany’s sins of mismanagement and budget cuts. Please make medical decisions based on medical need, not greed. Thank you.

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