Tough love on the way for hospitals

People march over the Brooklyn Bridge during a People march over the Brooklyn Bridge during a protest against the proposed plan by SUNY Downstate officials to shut down Brooklyn's Long Island College Hospital on July 24, 2013. Photo Credit: EPA/Justin Lane

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Everyone's a winner in yesterday's agreement to keep Long Island College Hospital open to provide -- in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's carefully measured words -- "long-term viable health care."

The state can offload a huge money-loser. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was marched off in plastic handcuffs last July to protest the possibility of closure, can now claim victory -- even if that's a stretch. And Brooklynites may finally see the makings of a modern health care delivery system.

But some people might be surprised.

"Long-term viable health care" probably won't mean an abrupt return to the full-service neighborhood hospital that Cobble Hill residents -- and de Blasio -- were seeking last summer. The economics just aren't there.

The new LICH could mean a complex that provides basic emergency medicine and perhaps other services. It could also mean a complex that includes some affordable housing. It all depends on the proposals that emerge.

But yesterday's news is a big step forward. A full-service LICH is not realistic. The alternative was no LICH at all.

The only ones who don't win are those who will only settle for the old LICH they remember so fondly.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Similar changes are about to sweep other hospitals in Brooklyn and the state -- thanks to a deal recently struck between Albany and Washington that will inject $8 billion into health care delivery statewide.

But like the LICH deal, the agreement with the feds is not a cash IV drip meant to prolong the lives of outmoded institutions. Rather, the federal deal is designed to force troubled public facilities to reduce their numbers of beds and focus on specific areas like primary care or outpatient services.

That's not an easy change to make for New Yorkers who have always seen their local hospitals as bulwarks against disease and death. It can also mean a loss of jobs.

But it has to happen. Washington is in no mood to throw away billions on doomed specimens of medical economics. Neither is the state. Yesterday's LICH agreement is a necessity. We need to see more.

You also may be interested in: