The Local Input in Community Healthcare (LICH) Act would require the commissioner of the state Department of Health (DOH) to approve any future hospital closures.
Under the proposal, the commissioner would not be authorized to grant permission for a closure without a thorough investigation of the impact on both stakeholders and the surrounding community.
"This bill would ensure that there's never another situation like LICH," said State Senator Daniel Squadron. "Today, there is no confidence for communities that medical needs are taken care of when a hospital closure is threatened.”
Current law only requires a community forum to be held after a hospital is already closed and does not require any review from the sitting DOH commissioner.
Despite protests and community outcry, the 117-year-old, 506-bed hospital was closed on May 22, 2014, following a 16-month court proceeding with operators SUNY Downstate.
Today, the Cobble Hill facility, now operated by NYU Langone, serves non-critical and walk-in services out of the former ER unit.
Squadron, who introduced the bill with Assemblywoman-elect JoAnne Simon, joined local officials last week in an effort to protect other hospitals from the same fate.
“This bill would ensure that a community's healthcare needs and the viability of the institution are core questions when hospitals are threatened,” he said.
The state representatives said their main goal for introducing the bill was to provide more transparency and a role for community input.
"Today's healthcare system faces competing demands," Simon said. "We need this law to ensure that when it comes to providing vital healthcare services the community's voice is heard and their needs are addressed.”
If passed, the bill would require a 30-day closure process that considers the impact of the surrounding community, provide a community forum within six weeks of application and provide an explanation of transitional medical services to the impacted neighborhood.
Current city Comptroller Scott Stringer introduced a similar bill while he was a member of the City Council, the framework for the LICH Act.
"Health care is a fundamental human right and all New Yorkers should have access to affordable, comprehensive services in their neighborhoods," Stringer said in a statement, adding that he hopes it would, “ensure a community is not shut out of the process when its essential health care services are threatened."