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Post date: December 5 1999

Court Blocks Sale Of Manhattan Hospital

Attorney General Spitzer today cited a State Supreme Court decision blocking plans for the sale and eventual closure of the Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital, (MEETH).

In a decision issued on December 3, Justice Bernard J. Fried upheld the Attorney General's contention that MEETH's Board of Directors failed to promote the hospital's corporate mission.

Spitzer had charged in a lawsuit that the MEETH board failed to satisfy requirements for court approval of the sale because it wilfully ignored several alternative transactions proposed by health care institutions that would allow the facility to continue as an acute care teaching hospital in its specialty areas of ophthalmology and ear, nose and throat and plastic surgery. The Attorney General argued that the hospital was concerned only with realizing the $41 million from the sale of the East 64th Street facility, which would allow it to open diagnostic and treatment centers throughout New York City. The Court agreed with the Attorney General.

"We are pleased that the Court agreed with us that the first duty of MEETH'S Board of Directors, as a not-for-profit corporation, is to use its charitable assets to further the organization's charitable mission," Spitzer said. "Our efforts hoped to preserve the superlative surgical, teaching and research role played by this 130-year old venerable institution."

The Attorney General was joined in opposing the sale by the MEETH medical staff, the 1199 National Health and Human Service Employees Union and several of the health care entities that had proposed alternative transactions to preserve MEETH, including Lenox Hill Hospital and Continuum Health Partners, which heads the hospital network that includes Beth Israel Hospital, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary.

As a next step, the Court will supervise the negotiation of an alternative transaction which best serves to preserve MEETH. The Office of the Attorney General will appear before the Court on December 13 with recommendations as to how that process should be conducted.

The case was handled Charities Bureau Section Chief Robert Pigott and Assistant Attorney General Sandra Giorno-Tocco, under the supervision of Bureau Chief William Josephson, along with Special Counsel Howard Gootkin of the Health Care Bureau.