Nearly 350 residents from across the barrier island attended a forum at the Lindell School on Monday to hear from local civic leaders, doctors, educators, emergency responders and others about the urgent need to reopen Long Beach Medical Center.
The forum was organized by the Beach to Bay Central Council of Civic Associations, and speakers urged residents to sign a petition and call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and others to help expedite the reopening of a full-service hospital at LBMC, which has remained closed since Hurricane Sandy. The petition, which began circulating three weeks ago, has already collected more than 1,100 signatures.
“We need to push our politicians to immediately reopen a hospital,” said BBCC co-founder Barbara Bernardino. “The closing of our hospital is not only a health and safety issue, but it’s also impacted our property values, local jobs and the economic stability of the community.”
LBMC closed after its basement flooded during Sandy. Last June, after months of repairs, officials said that two wings, including the emergency department, were ready to reopen. The state health department refused to allow that, however, and called for LBMC to merge with South Nassau Communities Hospital. State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah cited the hospital’s poor financial management as a major factor in his decision.
Dr. Martin Gruber, a former director of orthopedics at LBMC, said the state denied residents a public hearing before it decided to keep LBMC closed. He also cited the 2006 Berger Report, a sweeping set of recommendations to restructure hospitals and nursing homes throughout the state. Though the report recommended that LBMC downsize and reconfigure as a smaller facility, Gruber said that it also took into account the community’s unique needs, and concluded that LBMC “must” remain open.
“It’s in direct contradiction of the Berger Report,” Gruber said. “What happened to our politicians? Why did they ignore that? We don’t really know.”
The message at the forum was clear: Nothing short of a full-service hospital must reopen at LBMC.