Primary-care vans to replace Long Beach emergency units

A state decision removing two mobile emergency-care units from Long Beach has sparked concerns from officials and residents worried about putting residents of the barrier island at risk.

New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah has arranged for the vans to be replaced with primary care units, placed across from the main hospital entrance. An ambulance will be available on site in case of emergencies.

Two vans from Hackensack Medical Center opened Nov. 21 to offer emergency care while Long Beach Medical Center, flooded during superstorm Sandy, remains closed.

In a statement, the health department said Shah made the change because the "vast majority of needs of the community at present call for primary care" as Sandy-related medical needs wind down.

Hospital spokeswoman Sharon Player said the primary care units would open Thursday. One of them, supplied by the disaster-relief group AmeriCares, will be staffed with employees from the hospital and operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The other, provided by Refuah Health Center, based in upstate Spring Valley, will operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., using its own staff.

Since Nov. 24, the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System has been sending a medical van to 700 Magnolia Ave. in Long Beach on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

But several officials have written Shah, citing worries about providing timely emergency care.

"Residents of Atlantic Beach, Long Beach, Lido Beach and Point Lookout will be placed in a precarious position with regard to access to other emergency services that will require bridge crossings and frequent traffic delays," wrote Democratic Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg, a Long Beach resident.

Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) called the change "unbelievable . . . at a time when the communities on the barrier island need vital services."

Lido Beach resident Sharon Popper voiced similar worries. "My initial concern is access to emergency services," she said.

The closest hospital is South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, more than 5 miles away.

Player said the hospital hopes to reopen in about three months.

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