WHY MUST WE BUILD A HOSPITAL IN
Super storm Sandy produced catastrophic damage, severe financial losses and emotional trauma of a level not previously seen on our barrier island. Our only hospital, which was established in 1922, was forced to close. The community was assured that it would be rebuilt and the rebuilding process was begun. Sixteen million dollars were spent. The City and the community were promised that the hospital would reopen by June of 2013. Then the State of New York, without any attempt at a public hearing or public input, announced that Long Beach Medical Center would not be permitted to reopen, ever, -- leaving us isolated and at great risk.
Long Beach Medical Center served a barrier island with about 40,000 permanent residents and an additional 55,000 summer visitors. The only way to reach hospital services is via one of only three roads. Each route must cross a draw bridge which opens frequently to permit the passage of marine traffic (especially in summer) and sometimes mechanical failure causes a bridge to be stuck in the open position. Travel is often delayed by heavy summertime vehicular traffic, and storm induced flooding can block transit for an indefinite time. Because of this isolation, a blue ribbon panel appointed by the State of New York (Berger Commission Report2) has stated that Long Beach Medical Center must remain open.
Nevertheless the New York State Department of Health has refused to permit Long Beach Medical Center to reopen. The Department of Health without any attempt to justify its efforts to the community has forced the hospital to declare bankruptcy and has forced it to agree to transfer its assets to South Nassau Communities Hospital [$6.6 million was given by the State for this transition]. Furthermore, $100 million of FEMA funds, earmarked by the US Government for the rebuilding of a hospital, cannot be utilized, taking yet another community asset from us.
Why has the state taken this position, placing the entire population of this island at risk?
They claim that financial losses (about 1.6% of the hospital budget annually) allows them to take away a hospital, its assets, associated 1400 jobs and $100 million of FEMA funds from the people of this barrier island. In return an Urgent Care Center will be built and perhaps a free standing emergency room will be considered. Is this a fair deal for our island, our City?
An Urgent Care Center does not substitute for a hospital. It can only provide routine care and is typically open only 12 hours per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics condemns the use of such centers for the routine care of children. A free standing 24hr. 911 receiving Emergency Room is impracticable. A free standing Emergency room would require the availability of sophisticated imaging such as CAT scanner and MRI. The major capital expense associated with this equipment is reasonable only if shared with a full service hospital. A similar argument also applies to the complex laboratory back-up needed. Major life and limb threatening events can require the availability of a fully staffed intensive care unit to achieve stabilization and a full operating suite with facilities for subsequent hospitalization may well be needed. These capabilities are only possible in a full service hospital.
Emergency departments generally lose money and are supported as a public service and as a feeder for a hospital's inpatient services. A free standing emergency room will unquestionably lose money. This is the reason given by the department of health for closing Long Beach Medical Center in the first place. Therefore, any free standing emergency room will be closed, bankrupt, with the further waste of great sums of money.
In 2006 the State of New York commissioned a blue ribbon panel (the Berger Commission) to review hospital policy in NY State. Its findings have formed the basis of hospital policy ever since. This report states:
"There are approximately 40,000 residents in Long Beach and its adjacent island communities. There is a relatively large concentration of nursing homes, adult homes and assisted living facilities in Long Beach, and 16% of the population is over 65 years old. Because of the concentration of healthcare and housing facilities for the elderly, summer-time surges in population, recreational and boating facilities, geographic isolation, and dependence on drawbridges to access the mainland, LBMC, despite its size and unstable financial situation, must remain open so that the community has appropriate access to emergency services and acute care."(2)
The argument presented by the state to support overriding its own report and placing 95,000 of its citizens at risk is fiscal mismanagement and a poor business plan at Long Beach Medical Center. There was no evidence of medical failure, no irremediable catastrophe. While this might call for a change in hospital administration, it does not support the closing of the hospital.
We have been failed by our state government and abandoned by our elected representatives. We have seen community assets taken from us without input or consent. This cannot and should not be tolerated.
The BBCC will host another Public Forum on March 24th at 7PM at the Lindell School. Our elected representatives, South Nassau Community Hospital and others will again be invited to update the community while listening to our concerns. Please make every effort to attend. It is imperative that our Governor notice this citizens lobby as being organized, vital and serious. Governor Cuomo has been upfront and visible after Super Storm Sandy; we need him to again go to bat for us, the residents of this barrier island.
Visit our web site: www.beachtobaycentralcouncil.com - Sign the Petition
WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER
Dr. Martin Gruber, M.D. Barbara Bernardino
BBCC/Research Team Coordinator/BBCC
Dr. Gruber is a Lido Beach resident and a member of the BBCC and serves as the group’s research team coordinator. He practiced in Long Beach from 1962 to 1988. He served as Director of Orthopedics at Long Beach Hospital and as a member of Board of Trustees. In 1988, he went to Stony Brook University as Associate Chairman of Orthopedics and Clinical Professor of Orthopedics and Pediatrics. He retired in 2002
2. A Plan to Stabilize and Strengthen New York's Health Care System; Final Report of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century; Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century, 90 Church St, New York, NY 10007 (www.nyhealthcarecommission.org)