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Monday, November 24, 2014

Long Beach Medical Center may lose E.R.
Claims state Health Dept. would end acute care, force merger with another hospital
By Anthony Rifilato and Alexandra Spychalsky
Penny Frondelli/Herald
Penny Frondelli/Herald hospital officials claim that the state Health Department is standing in the way of the facility’s reopening.

The Long Beach Medical Center, which has been closed since Hurricane Sandy caused $56 million in damage, is facing pressure from the New York State Department of Health to shutter its acute care service and merge with another hospital, possibly South Nassau Communities Hospital.

The 162-bed facility closed when 10 feet of water flooded its basement during the storm. Hospital spokeswoman Sharon Player told the Herald last week that all major work to allow two wings to open, including the emergency department, had been completed. But before the hospital can reopen, both the county fire marshal and the Health Department must inspect it to ensure that it is up to code, Player said.

According to an advertisement in this week’s issue of the Herald by the hospital’s board of trustees, the state does not want the facility to resume its acute care operations, meaning that the facility would no longer have a functioning emergency room.

Without an acute care center, hospital officials said, the facility would no longer have in-patient services. Officials said that the Health Department does not want the hospital to function as a “911-receiving emergency department.” Though it might be allowed to provide some urgent care, such services would not be offered on a 24/7 basis.

“We feel that the community deserves more than that,” a spokeswoman said. “Given the size and geographic isolation of the community, an acute-care hospital with emergency services is clinically appropriate and can be financially viable.”

Since the storm, patients with medical emergencies have been taken to Nassau University Medical Center, South Nassau Communities Hospital or other area facilities. But many city officials complain that the trip takes too long — a Long Beach ambulance may not return for 90 minutes — which not only puts patients at risk, but strains the city’s resources.

“Obviously, Fire Department-wise, we want a local emergency room to transport our patients to,” Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said. “It puts a strain on our EMS system, and ambulance turnaround times are longer.”

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