This week, Downstate and Long Island College Hospital (LICH) have been in the news.
The SUNY Board of Trustees is discussing a plan this week that will close Long Island College Hospital. Many of you will remember during our conversations to acquire Community General Hospital, that we often made reference to the Downstate/Long Island College acquisition. In some ways, that acquisition served as a model for our activities. One could reasonably ask the question: What has happened to Downstate? Will our merger/acquisition suffer a similar fate?
The reasons for the proposed closure of Long Island College Hospital are many. The Downstate acquisition of Long Island College Hospital is different in many ways than our acquisition at Community General Hospital. I am certain that we will not suffer a similar fate. We are committed to the continued growth of our current clinical services at Community General Hospital.
When Downstate took over LICH, it was clear that LICH was a failing hospital. The acquisition model was different than ours in that the LICH employees remained in a private union. This made integration of services between the Downstate University Hospital and the Long Island College Hospital difficult. Additionally, the Downstate campus took on the direct employment of many of the physicians who practiced at LICH. This resulted in significant expense for both the campus and the University Hospital. The market environment in central Brooklyn is much different than in Central New York. In Brooklyn, it is easy for patients to cross the river and have their tertiary care at a host of well-known and prestigious Manhattan hospitals. This has made the patient case mix at hospitals like University Hospital and Long Island College Hospital much less favorable. This has severely impacted the hospital finances. Finally, as noted in the previous analysis by Stephen Berger’s commission, the entire healthcare system in Brooklyn is quite fragile. Two or three other hospitals in Brooklyn have recently made known their intent to merge or file for bankruptcy.
Our Upstate/Community General Hospital acquisition was, and is, much different. The ongoing financial losses in our two institutions are “tiny” in comparison to the losses at Downstate. The integration of our medical staffs, and our employees, proceeded quite well. Having all the employees as public employees has made it much easier for us to integrate services and to expand and develop new programs. We do not bear the financial burden of employment of physicians. The physical plant at Community General was in very good condition, and this has allowed us to easily add new services and to expand. The close proximity of the Community campus to the Downtown campus and the limited competition for high-end tertiary medical services in our community has also helped us.
From where I sit, unlike Downstate/LICH, our Upstate/Community General acquisition is a success. We will continue to grow services at Community. However, as I often said, the Community acquisition is a five-year plan. It will take time and continued commitment by all of us to make this work. We are merging cultures, which takes time, we are merging policies and procedures, which is often painful.
While it is instructive to watch what is going on in Brooklyn, it is important to remember we are, and will continue to be, quite different.