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It’s a shoot and a miss for indefatigable ombudsman Jon Berall

Does LICH rhyme with swish? Court watchdog attempt to pass the hospital to Nets owner

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A court-appointed Long Island College Hospital watchdog who is a self-appointed salesman for the beleaguered medical center says he thinks he has a buyer for the facility who is a slam dunk.

Brooklyn Heights physician and hospital ombudsman Jon Berall, unsatisfied with the companies he says are currently vying to run the Cobble Hill institution, has once again taken matters into his own hands, penning a letter to Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov asking the Russian billionaire to take over and restore the hospital, and offering the prospect of a new sports medicine facility bearing his name to sweeten the deal.

“It is my hope, as a member of this community and a practitioner of sports medicine,” Berall wrote in the appeal, “that you might consider being our White Knight.”

The man appointed by Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Johnny Lee Baynes in September to keep tabs on the condition of the beleaguered infirmary has grown frustrated with what he sees as the state’s continued dismantling of the hospital despite court orders prohibiting such actions.

For his latest gambit, the judicial documentarian went so far as to prepare mock-ups of the hospital’s sign bearing Prokhorov’s face and name as “a visual inducement.”

“With your leadership LICH can again be a top-notch 250-bed, full-service acute care hospital, with a full rehabilitation center, on-premises hotel with ample parking for both, and last but not least the ‘Mikhail Prokhorov Sports Medicine Institute,’ ” Berall wrote.

But there are options, he explained, should the man who Forbes ranks as the world’s 69th richest turn out to be a modest guy.

“The institution could instead be named in honor of your parents, of course,” Berall wrote.

Nurses he bounced the idea off of said that the new moniker loomed a little too large, and Berall agreed but remained committed to the plan as proposed.

Unfortunately for the arbiter-turned-activist, the Nets honcho is not interested, according to a spokesman for the Onexim Sports and Entertainment holding company, which owns the team.

“[Onexim] is aware of the proposal and has already answered Dr. Berall directly that it is not interested at this time,” said Barry Baum, a spokesman for the Brooklyn Nets.

Other hospital advocates are sticking to closed-door negotiations as a way to choose a new operator for the health care facility that was supposed to be stripped from state hands by a bombshell August ruling from Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Carolyn Demarest but has remained under governor appointee control while the search for a willing manager has dragged on.

Berall has claimed that Brooklyn Hospital, Lutheran Hospital, and a Chinese group of investors are in talks to take over the hospital, but the two hospitals and hospital unions would not confirm that. In his letter to Prokhorov, Berall describes the candidates as “less than impressive.”

Berall’s robed boss declined to comment on the ombudsman’s latest initiative, citing pending litigation over the shuttering saga, which activists hope results in state officials being fined or even jailed for contempt of court.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
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