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Nurses Protest At Purchase As SUNY Closes Hospital

James McCray, a physical therapy nurse at Long Island College Hospital, speaks at a protest at Purchase College in Harrison over the SUNY Board of Trustee's vote to close the hospital.
James McCray, a physical therapy nurse at Long Island College Hospital, speaks at a protest at Purchase College in Harrison over the SUNY Board of Trustee's vote to close the hospital. Video Credit: Casey Donahue

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- A crowd of nurses, doctors and patients protested at Purchase College in Harrison Tuesday as the SUNY Board of Trustees voted on whether to shut down Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. The board unanimously decided to close the hospital.

Shouts of "The vote is fixed, don't close LICH" rang through the Purchase Performing Arts Center before the board was set to meet. One by one nurses and patients who have received their care stood up and spoke to how the hospital has served its community for more than 150 years.

Loreto Gasmen has been an operating room nurse at the hospital for 38 years. He called the decision "ugly" but said, "It will not stop here. We will fight this all the way to the governor's office."

"The community needs emergency services," he continued. If the hospital closes, "thousands and thousands of patients will suffer."

Charmaine Henry lives in Pennsylvania, but has worked as a nurse at LICH for 19 years. "I Commute 84 miles to work each day because of the sense of loyalty I have for this institution," she said. She said the Board of Trustees should come visit the hospital and see how it runs, and should give it more time before shutting it down.

During the public comment time in the board's meeting, more stood up to voice their outrage. "Consider the inequality. Consider the injustice. It is both shocking and inhumane," said Mickey Green of the New York State Nurses Association.

Board Chairman H. Carl McCall said that SUNY is losing $12 million a month and that there is no money to keep the hospital open. While some had said the vote was being held in Purchase to discourage those affected from speaking out, he said that the meeting had been scheduled months in advance. He also denied rumors that the hospital property is being sold to make room for high-rise condos.

The board had voted last week to close the hospital, but that decision was overturned after a state judge ruled that it had violated Open Meeting Laws. The decision still needs to be approved by the state Department of Health. The protesters vowed to keep the fight going, and will hold a candlelight vigil at LICH Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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