Saturday, February 22, 2014

What Actual Journalism Looks Like: Brooklyn Eagle Reports Details of LICH Settlement

Would you look at that!  A news organization reports on a story of genuine interest to its readership, and includes useful details.  The Brooklyn Eagle has followed the LICH story for years and wrote an informative story about what transpired this week after the last year of wrangling and many months of litigation.  I hope some of our other news organizations will emulate the Eagle's example over Politico and Buzzworthy.

While the agreement does not guarantee that LICH will continue to operate as a hospital, its structure insures that bidders proposing a hospital will jump to the top of the pack in a new RFP (Request for Proposals) process. The RFP could be issued as early as Thursday, lawyers said, assuming approval comes Monday.
[Click through for details of the agreement which follow the story.]
SUNY’s original RFP had been tilted to favor financial considerations, rather than prioritizing the health care needs of the community.
The agreement also gives the coalition that has been working to save the hospital a significant voice in determining which proposal wins the bid – a first in a state RFP.
Still, the deal comes with many uncertainties. If there are no suitable bids by May 22, LICH will close. Already, 241 nurses at LICH have received notices that they could be furloughed on April 10 if no buyer is found, and 1199 SEIU members have also been told of the possibility of layoffs.
Attorney Jim Walden, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, representing six community groups, said the agreement represents the community's “best chance to keep a hospital at LICH.”  Walden added afterwards that he doubted that no hospital proposals would be offered, “given the fact that of the current proposals, there are already one hospital, and one near-hospital.”
All of the parties to the agreement -- including SUNY, the state Department of Health, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199 SEIU and the community groups – gave up something in the settlement, Walden told state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes.
LICH supporters are dropping three separate legal proceedings against SUNY as part of the deal, two overseen by Justice Baynes and one by state Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest. The Demarest proceedings, currently on hold, have raised questions about the legitimacy of SUNY's ownership of LICH.
“Once the cloud of litigation is removed from the equation, we believe the prices will only go up, not down,” Walden said.
Justice Baynes, who has been presiding over the case for a year, wanted to make it perfectly clear that LICH supporters, including unions, the community and elected representatives, understood there was no guarantee. “If no operator comes in by May 22, if you do not have a bonafide purchaser by May 22, LICH is going to close. . . . I want people to go into this with their eyes wide open,” he said.
He also said that his work on this case was not over. “I have retained jurisdiction in the case” to insure that “everyone is treated with honor and dignity.”
Jeff Strabone, spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association, echoed the sentiment that the settlement was the best chance to keep a hospital at LICH. “The previous process favored real estate,” he said. “The new one will favor hospital operators. If respondents want to be competitive, they best propose a hospital if they want a high score.”
He added, “As a process, it is unprecedented that a state-issued RFP is withdrawn, and a new one that the community helped write replaces it. I hope other community groups refer to this in the future when they need empowerment.”
Is the situation perfect?  No.  Is it better than it was?  Hell yes.  Absent the tireless efforts of then-Public Advocate Bill deBlasio along with labor, the doctors, Jim Walden and therest of the lawyers, and the coalition of community groups LICH would have been closed and boarded up last year, waiting for demolition crews.

I don't think anyone has illusions that we will get everything we want, but we will have a hospital - we will have accessible healthcare in our community.  And that's something we can all celebrate.  We do need to be vigilant.  And we will be.  But for an hour or two let's enjoy the fact that we worked together and made a difference.

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