The hospital’s board of trustees, city officials and local organizations are calling on the Health Department and state lawmakers to allow the acute care services to continue.
In a statement, Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said that residents on the barrier island deserve access to “high-quality, appropriate health care.”
In a letter to Nirav Shah, the state’s commissioner of health, City Council President Scott Mandel urged him to expedite the reopening of the hospital, and stressed the necessity of having emergency services available in Long Beach.
“Each and every resident of the city suffers without a functioning emergency room,” Mandel wrote. “We stand on the brink of the summer season when the demand for emergency services in Long Beach increases tremendously.”
Michael Kerr, president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and a hospital board trustee, said that with only three means of access on or off the barrier island, mechanical problems with bridges cause lengthy delays. Additionally, the community’s population increases from 38,000 to over 50,000 during the summer months, Kerr said, and in a medical emergency, transporting a patient to another hospital may mean a delay of life-saving care.
LBMC officials said that the state wants to shut down its acute care services because of a surplus of hospital beds statewide. They said that hospital admissions across the state are down, and there has been a shift toward outpatient services.
A spokesman for the Health Department, however, said that the hospital has been losing money for quite some time, and is ranked 9th on the state's list of the 42 most financially distressed hospitals. “It’s been well documented that Long Beach Medical Center, for many years preceding Sandy, has been under dire financial stress,” said Bill Schwarz, the department’s director of public affairs.
Shah went even further, saying that the department has attempted to help the hospital with its finances and operations, but the LBMC has not done its part. The Health Department will not allow the hospital to reopen, or provide resources to make permanent repairs to the facility, unless it submits a viable financial plan, Shah said. “...The leadership of Long Beach Medical Center have failed to meet their obligations to address the dire financial and operational issues that for too long have plagued this hospital,” he said.