When hospitals can't make it, are we all sick?

LICHThe hospital where I gave birth to my two daughters -- one less than six months ago -- is shutting its obstetrics practice, selling two of their main buildings and reducing the number of overall beds in the hospital to just half of the official capacity. This glorious institution is not a post-Katrina victim or anything of the like. It's a major urban hospital: the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn Heights. And it owes $170 million to creditors.

This being Brooklyn, there are other hospitals in the area -- even within walking distance. But there is something of a Starbucks mentality of real estate here, meaning that you could have a hospital on every corner and you'd find enough sick people for each one. Even Starbucks is keeping most of its New York outposts open during its closing spree of 600 stores.

So why close a hospital? The powers that be at LICH cite malpractice insurance and other costs of delivering babies as the major reason for closing that division. My OB actually left the hospital a few months ago because she didn't like the office staff she had to share, and internal politics made it impossible for her to do anything about it. So maybe there's a little tension behind the scenes that we don't know about.

The ward where I gave birth, and subsequently paid $250 a night for a private room, is headed toward condos, it seems, and nearly 3,000 babies a year will have to be born elsewhere. That is not to mention all the sick people who used to head there for emergency care. The buildings will actually make very nice condos, if they can remove that hospital smell. My labor room had a wonderful view of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, and it's really close to transportation.

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