Long Beach Medical Center plans to reopen its emergency department Wednesday in two mobile units, more than three weeks after superstorm Sandy forced the hospital to evacuate its patients.
The units, supplied by Hackensack University Medical Center at the request of the hospital through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will include two 43-foot trailers that will be parked in the hospital's employee parking lot. The trailers include critical care beds, each with a heart monitor and defibrillator; a portable digital X-ray unit; laboratory; a small pharmacy; and heated tents for triage and minor treatment.
The emergency department will open at 7 a.m. Wednesday and operate 24/7, hospital spokeswoman Sharon Player said.
The hospital and accompanying nursing home were forced to evacuate 250 patients and residents to three hospitals and eight nursing homes on Long Island before the storm. The hospital remains closed following flooding to the basement that ruined the mechanical and electrical systems. About three-quarters of the staff remain unemployed.
It is unclear when it will reopen, Player said. The nursing home suffered less damage and should be reopened in about six weeks, the hospital said.
A Disaster Medical Assistance Team, sponsored by HHS, has been providing medical care at the incident command center for the City of Long Beach at Magnolia Boulevard. Player said the team will remain in place until Friday to provide some overlap of services.
Dr. Joseph Feldman, chairman of emergency services at Hackensack, said he and a team of doctors and nurses will be on site Tuesday to train Long Beach staff to use the equipment. Asked how long the mobile units would be available, Feldman replied: "We will continue to support them as long as help is needed."
And for the first time since the storm, the hospital met Monday with about half of its 1,200 employees, many of whom live in the Long Beach area and remain unemployed. Only about 20 percent to 25 percent of staff are currently working, Player said.
Many at the meeting were "upset -- and understandably so" that the flood-damaged hospital left so many without jobs, Player said. Many would also lose health benefits at the end of the month, she said.
"It's so sad for us," Player said. "But the reopening of the emergency department is a real good start back on the road to recovery."
Player said the hospital had contacted the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council for help in finding jobs at other hospitals for unemployed Long Beach staff. The hospital is also encouraging staff without jobs to apply for disaster-related unemployment benefits.
The hospital's home care agency remains open and its family care center will reopen in a temporary location within two weeks, the hospital said. The hospital is also trying to find space for its counseling center, and outpatient drug and alcohol programs.
The administration is still trying to come up with a firm figure for how much it will cost to rebuild. "It will be in the millions," Player said.
Long Beach Medical Center has started a disaster relief fund to rebuild the hospital called Help Rebuild Long Beach Medical Center. Contributions via check or money order can be sent to:
Long Beach Medical Center-Command Center, 249 E. Park Ave., Long Beach, NY 11561