The dispute between the Long Beach Medical Center and the State Department of Health grew more contentious last week, after Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah blasted the hospital’s board of trustees for a “flagrant misrepresentation of the facts” regarding the facility’s delayed reopening.
In a two-page letter to the board, Shah said that the financially strapped hospital should declare bankruptcy and merge with South Nassau Communities Hospital.
The 162-bed facility has been closed since Hurricane Sandy caused $56 million in damage, and is facing pressure from the Health Department to close its acute care services, which would leave it without a functioning emergency room or in-patient services. Officials said that the Health Department does not want the hospital to function as a “911-receiving emergency department.”
Shah’s letter was in response to an advertisement the board placed in the Herald and Newsday last week, attributing LBMC’s delayed reopening to the Health Department. Shah said that the hospital has failed to produce a sustainable health care business model and plan that would meet the needs of the Long Beach community.
Hospital spokeswoman Sharon Player recently told the Herald that all major work to allow two wings to open, including the emergency department, had been completed. However, the facility needs the approval of both the Nassau County fire marshal and the Health Department, which trustees say is delaying reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the cost of repairs and to pay contractors.
Player said that the hospital has already incurred $20 million in costs for the renovation of the two wings and the Komanoff Center for senior care, but has received only $1 million from FEMA and just under $2 million in flood insurance payments.
“Even if the state did have funds available,” Shah wrote, “it would be irresponsible and reckless to disburse those taxpayer monies to an institution that is in such a precarious situation, both financially and operationally.”