Emergency care, residents’ jobs at stake.
Story by Jeff Lipton.
City officials pressed their demands for a fully operational hospital facility in Long Beach last week, only days after the state provided a comprehensive mobile primary care facility as a temporary measure.
Officials said they might not be able to wait three months for the storm-ravaged Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) to be restored.
“The city believes it is important to have a local facility in Long Beach to treat our residents,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said.
In addition, Schnirman said the medical center was the largest employer in the city and hundreds of residents lost their jobs when the hospital was forced to close.
“Our residents need their jobs,” he said. “All of our needs were communicated directly to the State Department of Health this afternoon [Dec. 6] and aggressively to the commissioner.”
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Immediately following the storm, Schnirman said he has been working together with State Sen. Dean Skelos, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, County Executive Edward Mangano and Legislator Denise Ford to bring some medical relief to the city.
Hurricane Sandy forced about 10 feet of water into the medical center’s basement, knocking out critical mechanical and electrical systems at the heart of the operation, said Sharon Player, the medical center’s spokeswoman.
Player said the rebuilding process could take three months. In the meantime, a mobile primary care facility, located directly across from the main hospital entrance, has replaced the mobile satellite emergency department. In addition, an ambulance is on standby at the facility to take emergency patients to other hospitals.
The new mobile facility, which is set up in vans and staffed by LBMC doctors and nurses, fulfills the primary care needs of the community. Residents requiring emergency care should call 911 and will be transported by ambulance to a hospital outside the city.
“I think it’s huge,” said Player of Long Beach having its own hospital. “It’s extremely important.”
She said there’s a big difference in transporting an emergency patient to a hospital in the city in four or five minutes as compared with 15 to 20 minutes outside the city.
“It’s important to have emergency services here,” Player said. “The people want an emergency room and a hospital up and running.”
Player said other county facilities have shown great cooperation during the crisis.
Before the storm hit, 56 hospitalized patients were relocated from LBMC to Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) and 183 nursing home residents were moved to 11 different facilities in the county.
South Nassau Communities Hospital has accepted the city’s emergency room patients and LBMC set up a command center at the hospital for the first 10 days following the storm.
“We have really gotten tremendous cooperation from everyone,” Player said, adding that NUMC donated an entire floor to LBMC patients.
As a result of the storm, the lives of the 1,200 LBMC employees, about half of who live in the city, have been uprooted.
“They have lost their houses, their cars and other possessions and many have lost their jobs,” said Player. “Our people are really suffering.”
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By relocating its patients to other area facilities, LBMC provided staffing for this and thus managed to keep 400 to 500 employees on the payroll, said Player.
Long Beach residents are also in desperate need of outpatient mental health services to help many deal with the emotional trauma wrought by the storm, she added.
“There are emotional pieces to this after they realize what they lost,” she said.
Assemblyman Weisenberg said he has been trying to “expedite” the process of bringing urgent medical care to Long Beach residents.
“We want to get the proper medical care to protect people in Long Beach,” he said. “What I really want the state to do is expeditiously get a resource in that building.”
But, he added, given the damage to LBMC that may not happen for a while. MORE TOP NEWS
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