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LICH docs kept out of merger loop

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Doctors at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) have thrown a fly in the ointment over the hospital’s pending merger with the SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Following last week’s story in this paper about a memorandum of understanding signed between the two medical institutions, the LICH Organized Medical Staff (OMS) charged that they have been kept out of the loop on the possible merger.

The MOU comes after LICH’s management consortium, Continuum Health Partners (CHP), threatened last year to close the maternity, pediatric and dentistry wards amid a growing budget gap of upwards of $40 million.

The OMS allege that none of its members participated in any MOU discussions, and that CHP President Stanley Brezinoff and SUNY Downstate President Dr. John LaRosa worked it out without any of their input.

The OMS also sent Governor Paterson and the State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Richard Daines a petition letter dated June 8 signed by 150 LICH doctors stating, in part, their desire to separate the hospital from CHP.

“We understand that Continuum is attempting to orchestrate a change of control to its own hand−picked successor,” the OMS wrote.

“We cannot and do not support such transaction or any other transaction that is negotiated by Continuum. As the primary caregivers at and admitters to the Hospital, it is highly doubtful that any such transaction will succeed without our assent and support.”

The letter also urged the DOH to accept the OMS plan requiring “multiple affiliations with academic medical centers throughout the city.”

OMS Immediate Past President Dr. Arnold Licht, whose term expired last week, said the MOU represents a de facto state medical facility takeover of the 150−year−old locally run medical school and hospital.

DOH spokesperson Jeffrey Hammond replied that the agency has received the petition letter and has met several times with the physicians or their representatives.

“DOH has been monitoring the situation at LICH and will continue to do so,” said Hammond. “With that said, the Board of LICH is responsible for its operation. Remember, the board has signed an MOU with Downstate, so that is the focus of the department.”

A LICH⁄CHP spokesperson replied “that it is widely acknowledged that pursuing an affiliation with SUNY is in the best interests of LICH and the community.”

Downstate spokesperson Ron Najman refused comment on the issue, but stated that LaRosa recently met with the chairs of the LICH medical departments and characterized the meeting as cordial.

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