A Bay Shore hospital is hoping that changes in its protocol combined with an expansion of the emergency department will ease congestion that Deer Park fire officials say will only get worse this summer.

Southside Hospital representatives attended a meeting last week at the request of Deer Park fire officials who said there is growing concern over patient services at the hospital.

Anthony Macaluso, chairman of the board of fire commissioners in Deer Park, said the department last year began noticing problems with Southside and Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip. He said wait times to drop off patients in emergency rooms sometimes reached 40 minutes and emergency workers were frequently experiencing "diversion," where a hospital will notify them that they are closing down to new patients who are then diverted to another hospital. A hospital's "diversion time" is how long that closure lasts.

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Macaluso said South Shore communities are particularly hard-hit in the busy summer months and during storms. With large housing projects planned for Wyandanch, North Amityville and Brentwood, Macaluso said, the pressure for services will only increase.

"Our concern is, where are we going to bring these people in their time of need when first aid is required," Macaluso said. "After [Southside and Good Samaritan], where are we going to go?"

Southside Hospital officials spoke of a new, $48 million emergency department expansion that will triple the size of the existing department. The first phase of the expansion is expected to be completed at the end of 2016. Winnie Mack, regional executive director for the hospital's parent company, North Shore-LIJ Health System, said the expansion is necessary "because we know, right now, we don't have enough space."

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Benson Yeh, chairman of emergency medicine for Southside, said that when he joined the hospital four months ago, he was "kind of surprised" by the high diversion times. "To me diversion is a dirty word," he said. "Diversion is a last resort."

Efforts have been made to decrease diversion times, he said, and in the past four months, the average per month was three hours, with last month having no diversion time. He said the hospital has also begun rerouting staff to monitor patients in special units, freeing up beds elsewhere.

"In periods of high volume, we need that flexibility," he said.