Assemblymember Simon Passes Bill to Ensure Community Input Before a Hospital Closes

Bill ensures that community has input and health department has a review before a hospital or major department is closed

Albany, NY Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D - AD 52, Brooklyn) announced that her Local Input for Community Hospitals (LICH) Act (S3131/A02251) passed the Assembly with bipartisan support. This major piece of legislation ensures that communities receive notice and can provide input and the State Department of Health has oversight before hospitals, maternity or emergency departments are closed. This bill will help address the trend of healthcare facility closures with little to no public comment or public planning. The bill is supported by a broad coalition of healthcare and patient advocacy groups.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said, “The LICH Act is all about patient safety, transparency, and engagement.When SUNY Downstate proposed closing Long Island College Hospital in 2013, the State Department of Health neither notified nor sought input from the surrounding communities that LICH had served for 156 years, including low-income communities of color that had been designated ‘Health Professional Shortage Areas’ by the federal government. The Red Hook and Gowanus communities – literally underwater during hurricane Sandy – were left high and dry by the hospital’s closure. This harmful trend is happening across the state. This bill ensures a role for real community input and state review to protect New Yorkers before hospitals or major departments are closed.”

“When we learned of SUNY-Downstate’s plans to close Long Island College Hospital, my heart sank. The doctors and nurses at LICH had saved my life a few years earlier. I was grateful for their caring expertise and fearful of losing my healthcare professionals,” said Susan Raboy of Patients for LICH. “During our fight to save LICH, we learned that the State Department of Health wasn’t required to disclose the closure plans or engage with the communities it served. I am thankful that Assemblymember Simon hasn’t forgotten how the closure of LICH harmed our communities. With the passage of this bill, communities will have the right to real time information, to have their voices heard, and their healthcare needs addressed.”

“We commend Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for securing Assembly passage of this important piece of legislation, which will finally give affected communities advance notice and an opportunity to provide comments at a public hearing when a hospital is proposing to close entirely, or shut its emergency or maternity department,” said Lois Uttley, the Manhattan-based Senior Advisor for Community Catalyst’s Hospital Equity and Accountability Project. “More than 40 hospitals have closed across New York State, and others have shuttered their emergency departments or maternity units, leaving people without timely access to needed care in their home communities. COVID-19 has taught us that New York cannot go back to business as usual, with more hospital closings and downsizing.”

“Communities should absolutely have a say beforehand on what happens to the hospitals that serve their communities, and not just after that fact when there’s little that can be done,” said Mark Hannay, Director of Metro New York Health Care for All.  “We thank Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for sponsoring the Local Input for Community Hospitals Act and her leadership moving it forward.We commend the Assembly for passing it, and now look forward to working with the Senate to assure that communities’ voices are heard.” 

"People across our state deserve the respect of knowing when their local hospital may close and be given an opportunity to weigh in. Medicaid Matters New York, which represents the interests of historically-underserved people covered by Medicaid, applauds Assemblymember Simon for her leadership on this issue," said Lara Kassel, Coalition Coordinator, Medicaid Matters New York

Background: Link to 4/4/2022 Bill Debate (1:46:40-2:18:08). The LICH Act would require notice to the public, local elected officials and relevant agencies within 30 days of an application by a hospital to close, and mandates that a public forum be held at least 60 days before the proposed closure date. It would require the production and website posting of a complete copy of the application for closure as well as a written report regarding anticipated healthcare impacts to the surrounding communities, measures taken to lessen those impacts and a forum to seek input from the community regarding the impact of a closure on their healthcare needs.It allows the commissioner to approve a hospital closure application only if the needs of the community and impacted stakeholders, including access to emergency medical care, can be adequately met. And, under this bill, the commissioner would not be allowed to close a hospital without a thorough community input process in keeping with the timelines set forth in the bill.

In the court case surrounding the closure of LICH,the court said that the current laws and regulations governing hospital closures is "unconstitutionally vague." This bill seeks to address this issue.