St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill is accusing three of Nassau County's largest medical institutions of "identity theft" and false advertising on their websites as they allegedly seek to "dominate the health care market on Long Island."
In a March 2 letter, St. Francis' law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, threatened to sue North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Nassau University Medical Center and Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine unless the ads are removed and retractions posted immediately.
A North Shore spokesman said the advertisements were posted inadvertently and have been removed.
St. Francis, which specializes in cardiac care, claims the three affiliated institutions lied when they said on their websites that North Shore is the only area hospital in U.S. News and World Report's rankings of the "Top 50 Hospitals for Cardiac Services."
North Shore last received that distinction in 2005 while St. Francis has made the list every year since 2007.
"The inescapable conclusion is that you have deliberately made these false and misleading statements in an effort to inflate your respective reputations in the area of cardiac services," says the letter to the general counsels of the three institutions.
North Shore spokesman Terry Lynam said a handful of "archived" and "obscure" pages promoting the ranking "inadvertently" appeared on their website but were removed after St. Francis' complaints. He said the mistakes appeared on five out of 10,000 pages of content on the North Shore system's website.
"These exaggerations have been overblown," Lynam said.
But Chris Hendriks, spokeswoman for Catholic Health Systems of Long Island, St. Francis' parent company, contends some of the disputed material was posted as recently as 2011, causing the hospital "substantial harm" to its reputation and recruitment efforts.
"North Shore stole our identity," Hendriks said.
St. Francis, she said, plans to sue the three entities if they do not admit -- prominently and in bold typeface on their websites for the next two years -- that the ratings assertions were "inaccurate and false."
They also are demanding a statement attesting to St. Francis' ranking and an admission to the state Office of Professional Medical Conduct that they posted "false and misleading statements."
North Shore considers the matter closed and does not plan to post a correction or retraction, Lynam said.
Nassau University Medical Center, which is affiliated with North Shore, declined to comment on the allegations, citing possible litigation. Hofstra's medical school did not respond to a request for comment.