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LICH, SUNY merger touted as a win−win

Solving the business problems of financially beleaguered Long Island College Hospital will enable its medical services to ultimately thrive, those supportive of its partnership with a state institution said this week.

At a July 14 meeting intended to marshal support around LICH’s probable partnership with SUNY Downstate Medical Center, hospital officials insisted that the union would be a mutually beneficial endeavor.

“We have the unique opportunity to create the best health care center Brooklyn ever had,” said Dr. Ciril Godec, the chair of LICH’s Urology Department. He said he understood apprehension by some colleagues to the partnership. After all, he conceded, the hospital’s most recent partnership with Continuum Health Partners flat−lined. “We hoped it would work,” Godec said.

But Godec remains optimistic. LICH and SUNY Downstate recently unveiled a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreeing to consolidation. An agreement could be hammered out in six months, those at the meeting said. “Not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, there is bright sunshine,” Godec predicted.

The hospital has in the past had dark days. To address its mounting debt, the institution, located at 339 Hicks Street, at one time considered shuttering its maternity ward, dentistry and pediatrics departments. But the state Department of Health (DOH) interceded, saying those services were too vital to the community to close. As a stopgap measure, the agency helped LICH secure a $3 million bridge loan, enabling the hospital to remain open. The hospital also moved to shed itself of some of its real estate assets in a move to raise capital.

For now, the fire sale has been called off. “The simple fact is that Downstate is focused on making the LICH campus an integral part of its operations,” Continuum board member Michael Zimmerman said.

“It was fairly obvious to me and others that LICH was in serious financial difficulty, said Joseph Broadwin, a longtime member of LICH’s Board of Regents, and also a member of Continuum’s board. “The MOU is a statement that the partners see a solution,” he said. “That solution will be a business transaction to stabilize the finances of LICH and put it on a footing to achieve the medical services we had in the past.”

At the meeting, held inside the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn Heights on Henry Street, Zimmerman said if the new partnership materializes, $35 million in debt LICH owes to Continuum will never be paid. “They’re never going to see that money,” he said.

Assemblymember Joan Millman said she supports consolidation as a way to save LICH. “We have to hold on to LICH any way we can,” she said.

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