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Newborns no longer welcome at LICH - Financial woes force officials to discontinue obstetric services

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Citing increasing costs, annual deficits and a mountain of debt, Long Island College Hospital announced last week that it plans on discontinuing its obstetrical services.

But the LICH medical staff said it’s the Continuum Health Partners, which manages the hospital at 339 Hicks Street, and not the OB/BYN services that should be put out to pasture.

Last year the hospital delivered some 2,800 babies and is on course to deliver about 2,200 this year, hospital officials said.

Continuum Health Partners President and CEO Stanley Brezenoff said the closing of obstetrics was needed to ensure the long-term growth of the cash-strapped facility.

“Last year, the OB/GYN service accounted for 33 percent, or $11 million, of the hospital’s total [annual] losses,” said Brezenoff in a memo to LICH physicians and employees.

“In addition, the loss of OB services will have implications on pediatrics. We will carefully examine what those implications will be to determine the future configuration of pediatrics at LICH,” he added.

Brezenoff said that obstetrics is a major loser of revenue for LICH, particularly relating to malpractice costs, where an injury to a child at birth could lead to a lifetime of insurance payouts.

OB malpractice accounted for $8.8 million of the total $22 million in malpractice insurance costs for LICH, representing 40 percent of the hospital’s total losses, he said.

Additionally, Brezenoff said LICH will sell off at least two pieces of property that the hospital owns – the Polhemus Building and 97 Amity Street to help reduce the hospital’s approximate $170 million debt.

Brezenoff said the overall strategy is designed to make LICH more cash solvent with the goal of keeping the 150-year-old institution healthy for the next 150 years.

Brezenoff said there are about 350-400 positions affected with the discontinuation of obstetrics, but not all will be laid off.

“Our goal is to maintain as many of our present staff as we can and eliminate positions through attrition and other means,” said Brezenoff.

“One of the benefits of being part of a larger hospital network is that we also can look to where we might be able to move displaced staff to one of the other Continuum hospitals,” he added.

Brezenoff said all the money from the sale of hospital real estate will go toward making LICH more solvent, and he said Continuum remains committed to this Brooklyn facility.

“In addition, we will communicate all clinical changes with our patients and work hard over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition for them to other care providers,” said Brezenoff.

“And we will assist LICH-affiliated physicians impacted by these changes with any transitional issues related to their practices,” he added.

Gail Donovan, executive vice president and COO of Continuum, said women needing obstetric services will most probably utilize other nearby Brooklyn hospitals such as Methodist Hospital in Park Slope.

Brezenoff refused to give a timeline for the changes, saying Continuum notified the state Department of Health, whose approval is necessary to move forward with their plans.

“We also have had discussions with the Dormitory Authority of New York State and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which insures much of our present debt,” he said.

Meanwhile the LICH medical staff countered that since Continuum took over in the mid-1990s, the have brought LICH ever further in debt and are calling for the firm to sever their relationship with the hospital.

“The Medical Staff of Long Island College Hospital views Continuum’s plan to ‘reorganize’ the hospital as an admission of abject failure to manage a hospital that was somehow able to continue providing quality health care to the downtown Brooklyn community for 150 years,” said Arnold Licht, MD, president of the LICH medical staff and a 40-year veteran of the hospital.

“This includes delivering its babies and caring for their mothers, while teaching tomorrow’s doctors the skills to continue doing so,” he added.

Toomas Sorra, MD, and past president of the LICH medical staff and a 32-year veteran of the hospital, said that the hospital has to be freed from “Continuum’s disastrous mismanagem­ent” so that the doctors and the community can be allowed to secure LICH’s future.

“As Continuum has removed all local input from our Board of Directors, replacing community people with Continuum officials, we can’t even sever this relationship without help from outside authorities,” said Sorra,

“We have therefore filed complaints with the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Commissioner of Health. Both are investigat­ing,” he added.

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