“Such vagueness assures that the commissioner has unfettered discretion under its terms to approve the closure of LICH for any reason, or no reason at all,” Baynes wrote.
His decision has put a temporary hold on plans to shut down the medical facility.
Earlier this summer, the State University of New York (SUNY) canceled ambulatory care at LICH and transferred a number of patients to neighboring hospitals. It was later determined that those actions were in violation of a number of restraining orders.
But the decision by Baynes went further than simply keeping one hospital functioning, it states that rules governing the closure of a hospital be rewritten before future facilities are closed.
At a rally in front of the hospital on Friday, public advocate and Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio hailed the decision.
“We set out to save this hospital, and today we are closer than ever,” he said. “Justice Baynes’ ruling won’t just protect heath care in this corner of Brooklyn, it will protect community hospitals across New York City from falling prey to luxury condo developers.”
The ruling comes on the heels of two separate lawsuits filed by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers and de Blasio.
“This court ruling changes the playing field in our fight to protect care for New York patients,” said Jill Furillo, NYSNA executive director. “The Department of Health cannot rubber stamp hospital closures, it must act under lawful regulations that take the health needs of the community into account.”
Baynes stated that SUNY must work with community groups and unions to come up with a way of fixing the issues facing LICH in less than two weeks. One of the main problems will be addressing the loss of $4 million a month.
Despite the challenges ahead, LICH supporters are happy with the decision.
“This ruling is a huge victory for the patients, workers and the broader community who fought tirelessly for many months to preserve access to quality health care in Brooklyn,” said George Gersham, president of 1199SEIU.