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LBMC May Declare Bankruptcy

Public forum on hospital scheduled for next week.

Long Beach Medical Center. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
Long Beach Medical Center. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)

Long Beach 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.

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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 needs.

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. 

Tired of Excuses December 08, 2013 at 08:51 PM
No feasible business plan exists to show how a hospital located in Long Beach can ever be an economically viable entity. A 24/7 urgent care facility that is profitable coupled with a government subsidized 911 ER is all LB needs. @Moe: after WWll the US boomed because virtually all manufacturing capacity in the rest of the world was destroyed & the world bought all their goods from the USA until years later when their own manufacturing capacity was rebuilt.......in addition the domestic US economy released pent-up demand especially household formation and baby boom.......those were unusual circumstances that will not be replicated unless there is another world war that causes no damage to the domestic USA........consumer goods prices would be much higher today if the gov't led policy of imports never occurred, successive Dem & Rep administrations supported this policy to keep the inflation experience of the 70's from happening again.......people just needed to retrain for jobs that never go offshore like plumbers, police, teachers, sales etc........they just didn't do it....and still don't......why not ?
Eddie December 08, 2013 at 08:57 PM
And the government had nothing to do with inflating the money 500%? Now tell me inflation is caused by greedy landlords.
moe December 09, 2013 at 02:44 AM
@Tired of excuses- You're right on target with the fact that both Dems and Republicans sold out America with changed import policies. They literally gave away our industry, gave away our machines and wood and steel. I remember my disbelief when Communist China was granted "most favored nation" status in trade- same unrestricted markets as with Canada, UK, etc. One week we were ready to nuke the Chinese for threatening Taiwan, the next week we threw open the gates to the mint to them. Excellent point that many craftsman jobs are badly in demand with no training for them, and no prestiege shown for such work in the media. My father went to trade school in NYC, got skilled as an airplane mechanic, then a tool and die maker, and did meaningful and satisfying work his whole life. Unfortunately, most kids have no role models like this to follow any more. On TV, cops are portrayed as corrupt or killers, salesmen (like Al Bundy) are bumbling jerks, and plumbers as lumbering goofballs with their pants falling down. We needed a plumber here this week to fix a flooding first floor, and our lives would be disasters without folks like them. This new Common Core curriculum in the schools is standardizing what kids get taught, regardless of their location. Long Beach badly needs plumbers, some areas may badly need day care workers, but there's not much leeway for such things in the schools today. ... Sorry to stray so far from the important topic of the hospital.
marco saltamacchia December 09, 2013 at 12:09 PM
the med center was a patronage mill run by a local ambulance chaser who soaked the city and the med center for all they had. he and his cronies kept the center alive just so they could benefit. more useless people working there and not enough of the hard working medical people. the real medical people killed themselves and were badly underpaid. that's why you never got medical excellence. now, with bumbling idiots that ran it into the ground trying to propose a new plan, you wonder why state reps are laughing at us? eventually the people here have to wake up and demand a better way
BSM December 09, 2013 at 03:14 PM
The Health Dept. isn't helping matters either. Instead of all the behind closed doors negotiations between the board of LBMC and SNCH all those talks should be public record. The DOH should clearly spell out exactly what it wants in order to consider our hospital financially viable and the board should be required to explain why it can or can't meet those requirements. I have worked in Healthcare finance all my adult life and I could make a list of ways they waste money without even doing an audit. My guess is there are many people here in LB who could offer practical suggestions that would make the hospital financially viable.

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