The Long Beach Medical Center and South Nassau Communities Hospital continue to discuss a potential merger that will satisfy the state Department of Health and allow the barrier island’s lone hospital to reopen since it was closed after Hurricane Sandy hit last year.
Sharon Player, an LBMC
spokeswoman, told the Long Beach Herald that
negotiations between the two hospitals continue, the details of which can’t be
disclosed. Player said:
“We are in negotiations with South Nassau with respect to a merger. There is a non-disclosure agreement and nothing can be discussed as to what plans are being developed. But there is a very strong effort on everyone’s part to bring medical services back into the community, and between Long Beach Medical Center’s and South Nassau Communities Hospital’s leadership and the state, we’re working together to get things accomplished as quickly as possible.’
Jeffrey Hammond, a state spokesman, told Patch last month: ”The State Health Department is continuing to work closely with South Nassau Communities Hospital to effectuate a viable solution regarding Long Beach Medical Center that ensures the residents’ health care needs are met.”
162-bed hospital sustained $56 million in damages during last year’s storm, but
although work to repair the hospital, including the emergency department, was
completed in June and will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state has kept the facility closed.
The state cited as reasons for its decision LBMC’s loss of more than $2 million per year since 2008 and the lack of a sustainable healthcare business model and plan to meet community needs. In a letter to the hospital’s Board of Trustees, state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah called on the hospital to declare bankruptcy and merge with South Nassau in Oceanside unless it can generate a viable financial plan.
However, LBMC officials maintained that an acute-care hospital with emergency services is necessary on the barrier island, given its isolation from the Nassau County mainland and distance from neighboring hospitals.
The continuing negotiations are an outgrowth of a meeting the two sides had in Manhattan in July, when the health department documented LBMC’s financial woes and offered the hospital three options: remain closed, establish a freestanding emergency department, and retool the inpatient facility. But LBMC officials projected a financial loss from a freestanding emergency room, and wanted to maintain some inpatient beds, which reimburse at higher rates, and help offset costs to operate an emergency room.
Meanwhile, thousands of Long Beach residents and some LBMC employees have continued to call for the reopening of the hospital, whether through a petition to get the governor involved in the matter, or by voicing their concerns at community meetings, particularly about the distance and time an ambulance in Long Beach must travel to the nearest emergency room in Oceanside.
At the Sept. 17 City Council meeting, resident Sol Gold, said he contacted the offices of various public officials, from U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy to Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) about reopening the hospital. Calling the hospital just as important to Long Beach as the boardwalk, Gold called for a town hall meeting in Long Beach with such local officials, as well as state and hospital officials, to keep residents involved in the talks.
The next day, at a meeting of the West End Neighbors Civic Association, guest speaker City Manager Jack Schnirman that city officials take the reopening of the hospital “very seriously,” and that they have continued to advocate for reopening the emergency room as a 911-receiving facility "as priority number one."
“We know that they’re looking at a merger with South Nassau,” he added. “That may work out just fine. We hope. We don’t know. But whatever they do, let’s get that emergency room reopened.”
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