Officials to meet on Long Beach hospital fate

The Long Beach Medical Center, closed by superstorm

The Long Beach Medical Center, closed by superstorm Sandy, may not reopen as a full-service, acute care hospital, according to hospital officials. (June 26, 2013) (Credit: Steve Pfost)

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An exterior view of Mercy Medical Center located Long Island hospitals

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Officials from Long Beach Medical Center and the state Health Department are to meet Friday to try to come to some agreement about the future of health care on the barrier island.

Earlier this month, state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah and hospital trustees, in what became a public dispute, exchanged letters about reopening the financially beleaguered hospital, closed since superstorm Sandy.

Bernard Kennedy and James Portnof, chairman and vice chairman of the Long Beach hospital's board of trustees, said that "given the size and geographic isolation of the community, an acute care hospital with emergency services is both clinically appropriate and financially viable."

But Shah, in a letter to the trustees, took them to task, calling their statements about the medical center's recovery "a flagrant misrepresentation of the facts."

The health department has said it will not approve reopening the hospital, which has been losing money since 2007, unless it has a viable financial plan. At the state's urging, the medical center has begun talks with South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside about a possible merger.

Hospital spokeswoman Sharon Player said Friday that the trustees' executive committee, chief executive and chief financial officer will attend the meeting in Manhattan. A Health Department spokesman confirmed that the meeting is planned.

In the meantime, Long Beach officials and residents are urging the hospital and the state to provide some sort of emergency services on the barrier island.

City Manager Jack Schnirman Friday called on "all involved" to do "everything possible to get an emergency room opened as soon as possible. We hope everybody can get together to make it happen."

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said that, with a population that swells to 100,000 in the summer and many elderly residents, the time spent taking emergency patients off the island to South Nassau or to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow could mean the difference between life and death.

"We need a facility that provides emergency care 24 hours a day," he said. "Response time is critical."

Residents also have made their concerns known. Paula Shapiro, a resident since 1988, said she and about a dozen others had gathered more than 10,800 signatures on a petition sent Thursday to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asking him to re-establish essential health care services.

"Hopefully there will be some sort of forward movement," she said.

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