Schumer seeks FEMA funds to help Long Beach hospital

Sen. Charles Schumer speaks about effort to clear Sen. Charles Schumer speaks about effort to clear the way for Long Beach Medical Center's next operator to secure up to $100 million in federal funds that are owed to the hospital while in the unused emergency room of the Long Beach Medical Center in Long Beach Feb. 3, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the federal government to allow South Nassau Communities Hospital to get up to $100 million in Sandy relief on behalf of Long Beach Medical Center.

The financially strapped Long Beach hospital, which has been closed since October 2012, has been in negotiations with South Nassau in Oceanside since June about a takeover. There are no plans to reopen the hospital as a full service facility.

Long Beach chief executive Douglas Melzer said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has allocated about $20 million so far for temporary repairs. At issue, however, is about $100 million in federal money desired for permanent repairs. For South Nassau to get the funds targeted for Long Beach, FEMA would have to make an "advisory opinion" that would allow the money to be transferred.

"Here's the solution: All FEMA has to do is issue an advisory opinion . . . and make it clear to all parties that the $100 million will not disappear if Long Beach is acquired by another hospital," Schumer said at a news conference Monday at the Long Beach hospital.

"FEMA is continuing to work with Long Beach Medical Center to determine funding for all eligible recovery work," a FEMA representative said. "Once a proposal to acquire LBMC is submitted, FEMA can evaluate it in order to determine if the applicant would be eligible for assistance from FEMA."

The New York Democrat said not getting the money could be a deal breaker for talks between the two hospitals.

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Melzer agreed, saying that not getting the money "could very well jeopardize the merger."

"We're very appreciative," he said. "Obviously he [Schumer] understands the importance of getting FEMA to meet their obligation of the restoration of health care services for Long Beach."

South Nassau spokesman Damian Becker echoed Melzer. "In view of the need to move as quickly as possible, Sen. Schumer's call to action and support is critical if we are to succeed in our efforts," he said.

South Nassau said it plans to open a free-standing, round-the-clock emergency department on the barrier island, along with an urgent care center, for which it has received a $6.6 million federal grant from the state. The FEMA funds could be used for a free-standing emergency department, subject to state and federal approval, Melzer said.

Schumer said he plans to call FEMA's administrator, W. Craig Fugate, to urge him to issue an advisory opinion favoring the transfer of funds to South Nassau for Long Beach. He also called on FEMA to make it clear that only not-for-profit hospitals should be eligible for the funds to make sure the facility remains dedicated to providing health care.

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