February 24, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Although the "historic" new plan to save Long Island College Hospital from dissolution offers employees at the Cobble Hill facility no guarantees – the heads of LICH's two major labor unions say that the facility's 1400 workers now at least have some say in whether or not they keep their jobs in the weeks and months ahead.
"We will fight for every job and for every healthcare giver that has been there for all these years," Jill Furillo told LaborPress on Friday.
The New York State Nurses Association’s executive director joined SEIU 1199 Executive Vice-President Estela Vazquez at City Hall on February 21, to help Mayor Bill de Blasio and the rest of his team of LICH advocates announce a new agreement that many say represents the Hicks Street institution's best chance of remaining a full-service hospital.
"We are absolutely thrilled that the community, for the first time ever, actually has a say in determining what kind of healthcare is going to be there," Furillo continued.
According to Vazquez, the latest effort to secure a suitable new operator for LICH through the release of a retooled Request for Proposals [RFP] which favors health services over profits – combined with billions of dollars in Medicaid waiver money – really is "game-changer."
"We're going to be part of the process," Vazquez said. "Now, we're going to have – along with the community and the nurses – a seat at the table to decide what is going to be the future [of LICH] – instead of somebody in Albany or on the board of SUNY determining what will be."
Under the newly fashioned RFP, bidders interested in maintaining LICH as a full-service medical institution will automatically receive a scoring advantage over those who would also like to assume control of the facility – but turn it into a kind of condominium/medical hybrid.
"The stated objective of this RFP is to find an operator of a full-service hospital," said Jim Walden, lead attorney for the community stakeholder group.
Scoring under the prior RFP was decidedly skewed in favor of money over medical needs. The new RFP, however, supposedly reverses that situation “and then some.”
“In this settlement agreement, there will be an RFP that has the medical criteria accounting for over 70 percent of the ultimate score,” Walden insisted.
The current crop of bidders – all of which submitted proposals that would radically reduce LICH’s medical capabilities – are free to respond to the new RFP. But the mayor says that the three week window to apply this time around still provides ample opportunity for new bidders with seemingly better plans to come forward as well.
“I think we've learned one thing when it comes to Long Island college hospital – expect the unexpected,” Mayor de Blasio said. “We literally don't pre-judge. There are a lot of reasons why different entities would bid here. And certainly, a number of entities have been interested over the last year. So that's certainly a likely possibility.”
Ultimately, if the net proceeds of an accepted bid exceeds $240 million, 25 percent of that figure will be donated to a not-for-profit dedicated to community healthcare.
In Walden’s view, that particular feature of the new settlement shows just how serious SUNY Downstate – LICH’s current operator – is about helping to ensure that the facility remains a full-service hospital.
“And that should scare away anyone that thinks that they're going to get past the technical criteria and just make this deal about money,” Walden concluded. “This is a sweeping settlement. It's not a settlement that's going to guarantee anything – but it’s the best possible chance at a hospital.”
LICH’s hard-pressed staffers certainly hope so.
“For the last 13 months, our membership's mood has been one of concern, stress and anger,” Vazquez said. “Because from day-to-day we did not know what would come.”