At 9 a.m. on the dot Monday, South Nassau Communities Hospital Emergency Department at Long Beach received its first patient.
The barrier island's free-standing emergency department was officially open for business.
Standing an hour later in the radiant sun outside the $8 million facility, politicians and hospital officials celebrated the opening, which had been delayed since July 1 by federal and state regulatory snags.
Long Beach residents have been without an emergency department offering 24/7 care since superstorm Sandy flooded Long Beach Medical Center in October 2012. South Nassau purchased the bankrupt hospital two years later. Months before that, in July, it opened a $5 million urgent care center -- the site of the upgraded free-standing emergency department.
"This is a banner day," said Assem. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who added that the opening "signaled the comeback of the barrier island."
Kaminsky's predecessor, Harvey Weisenberg, who showed up tanned, in T-shirt and shorts, called the 6,300-square-foot building "a wonderful achievement."
William Allison, senior vice president of health policy and planning at South Nassau, said the new emergency department "is another key step in South Nassau's ongoing commitment to residents of this barrier island."
But not everyone was convinced that the new ED, or even future plans are enough.
A woman who brought her mother to the emergency department for an ultrasound yesterday morning, said they "were not overwhelmed" by the level of care.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said the personnel seemed confused -- although she said her mother eventually received excellent care from Dr. Josh Kugler, chairman of emergency medicine at South Nassau, who was there to oversee the opening.
Still, she said, Long Beach needs a full-fledged hospital. "If the hospital [South Nassau] wants to have branches, that's fine, but we still need a hospital," she said.
She is not the only one who feels this way. Dr. Martin Gruber, active in the Beach to Bay Civic Association, which has been outspoken in its call for reopening a hospital on Long Beach, called the new emergency department "inadequate."
"They cannot solve the problem of geography," said Gruber, a former head of orthopedics at Long Beach Medical Center who served on the hospital's board of trustees in the 1980s. "Without a hospital, health care [on the barrier island] is crippled compared to the rest of Nassau County."
In March, the Oceanside hospital announced plans to build a two-story, 30,000-square-foot medical arts pavilion on the site of the former Long Beach hospital. It would be funded by some of the $154 million the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would give South Nassau to redevelop regional health services for Long Beach and the South Shore.