Barbara Bernardino, a co-founder of the Beach to Bay Central Council of Civic Associations (BBCC), is spearheading a mission to bring a 911 emergency facility to Long Beach.
Follow Long Beach Patch on Facebook.
Toward that end, the BBCC will facilitate a public forum on the issue at the Long Beach Library, 111 W. Park Ave., from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“This meeting is about putting together an action plan, so that we make sure that we get what we need here,” Bernardino told Patch.
The barrier island remains without a facility that receives 911 emergency ambulances, as the Long Beach Medical Center, the area's lone hospital, has remained closed since Hurricane Sandy. While the storm-damaged LBMC rebuilt and was prepared to open last summer, the state Department of Health ordered that it remain closed, in part because of the hospital's troubled finances in which $2 million was lost each year since 2008.
While officials from the LBMC and South Nassau Communities Hospital continue to negotiate a pending merger, as requested by the state, Bernardino believes barrier island residents remain at risk without an emergency facility, and the BBCC is advocating for such a freestanding unit.
“According to New York state law, though, that requires a certain amount of beds,” Bernardino said. “It looks like we’ll need at least 100 beds to support an emergency room with a 911 drop off.”
The BBCC held a previous public forum about the medical center at the library on Dec. 11, when Scott Kemins, the City of Long Beach's Emergency Service Coordinator, and Dr. Matt Cohen, a local pediatrician, provided information to residents on what to do in an emergency, according to the Long Beach Herald.
As it stands, the average time a Long Beach Fire Department ambulance takes to transport a patient from the barrier island to South Nassau in Oceanside is between 12 to 20 minutes, while it takes an average of three to five minutes to transport a patient to LBMC, Kemins said.
Representatives from LBMC and South Nassau did not attend the December meeting, citing restrictions imposed by a non-disclosure agreement. Bernardino invited to Tuesday’s meeting various officials from across the barrier island, including from the city, local PTAs, and fire and police departments. Bernardino said she would like to see elected officials get more involved in advocating for an 911 emergency facility.
“All that I know is it’s very quiet and no one seems to be talking, and that’s disconcerting to me and the BBCC,” Bernardino said. “What we need to do is stop, take a deep breath, and have people come in and lead a discussion.”
The BBCC plans to meet with Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) at his office, at 20 W. Park Ave., on Jan. 17.
Meanwhile, each City Council member signed a letter, dated Jan. 10 and addressed to Nirav Shah, the commissioner of the state Department of Health, reiterating their call for the expeditious approval of an application for an urgent care center at LBMC and a fully functioning 24 hour 911 Receiving Emergency Department.
“Your immediate intervention is essential in order to provide appropriate medical care for our residents, as well as for the protection of the entire barrier island,” the letter reads.
In the meantime, Bernardino said, BBCC members are doing research to obtain more concrete answers on a various issues, including the number of residents who signed a petition calling for an 911 emergency facility, and the amount of money the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the LBMC for Sandy-related damages.