Medical Center will file for bankruptcy as part of a plan to eliminate its
debt, according Ray Ellmer, who sits on the hospital’s Board of Trustees, and
State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg.
Follow Long Beach Patch on Facebook.
But as talks of a merger between LBMC and South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside continue, hospital officials say that such statements are premature as the two sides work to finalize a plan.
While Ellmer said the medical center is “definitely declaring bankruptcy” to “get rid of some debt,” Weisenberg called the move to declare bankruptcy one among a number of recommendations the state has made to facilitate the LBMC-South Nassau merger, since South Nassau doesn’t want to “absorb [LBMC’s] existing debt,” according to the Long Beach Herald.
LBMC and South Nassau signed a nondisclosure agreement that prevents both sides from discussing details of the ongoing negotiations, but LBMC spokeswoman Sharon Player said in a statement “no decisions have been made as to the future business plans of Long Beach Medical Center.”
LBMC, a 162-bed hospital, closed after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012
when 10 feet of water flooded its basement and wrought an estimated $56 million in damages. And while
last June all of the major work to repair the hospital, including the emergency
department, was completed, the state Department of Health blocked the hospital
from reopening, citing an annual loss of more than $2 million since 2008 and
the hospital’s failure to produce a sustainable business plan to meet the community’s
The state advised LBMC to close its emergency department and merge with South Nassau and open a freestanding emergency department, but one that would not receive 911 ambulances, a proposal LBMC maintains isn’t financially viable. In October, a $6.6 million federal grant was given to South Nassau to rebuild on the LBMC campus an urgent care center, but one that would also not accept 911 ambulances. The opening of the facility is pending.
Ellmer told Patch last week that the urgent care center may not open until next year. “Quite frankly, nobody knows a date; it’s really up to the state and South Nassau,” he said.
Damien Becker, a South Nassau spokesman, said the hospital filed a certificate of need with the state Health Department on Oct. 16 to construct the urgent care center and that the state is expected to approve the application in December, while the hospital still awaits the release of the grant money. Marci Natale, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, said the application is still under review, according to the Herald.
In a separate report by the Herald, Becker said that since Hurricane Sandy admissions at South Nassau have increased by about 120 per month, or 75 percent, while treat-and-release visits to the emergency room have increased by about 225 per month, or 86 percent.
While Ellmer told Patch last week that there were four instances in or near Long Beach last summer in which people either suffered serious injuries or medical problems that cost them their lives or nearly did while they were transported to other hospitals, including South Nassau. Previously, at a City Council meeting Nov. 19, Ellmer made a statement that suggested these incidents were due to the amount of time it takes ambulances on the barrier island to travel to South Nassau, which is roughly five miles from the center of Long Beach.
But Billy Piazza, president of the union representing Long Beach Fire Department’s career firefighters, said that while the time it takes an ambulance to transports a patient in Long Beach to a hospital and return to the city can extend up to 90 minutes, he disagreed with Ellmer connecting patients who have died with the closure of LBMC. Piazza told the Herald:
“Is the hospital’s closure a tremendous inconvenience? Yes. But I question the validity of that statement. [Patients] are being treated with the same exact medications [in the ambulance] that they would receive in the hospital.”
Meanwhile, residents concerned about the absence of a hospital in Long Beach are organizing a public meeting for next week on the status of LBMC and the ongoing negotiations. Barbara Bernardino, co-founder of the Beach to Bay Central Council, told the Herald the organization scheduled the forum at the Long Beach Library at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, and will included representatives from the City of Long Beach and the offices of State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, although it remains uncertain if officials from both hospitals will attended the forum.