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Long Beach gets fourth ambulance through contract with South Nassau Communities Hospital

The exterior of South Nassau Urgent Care Center

The exterior of South Nassau Urgent Care Center at Long Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Long Beach will contract with South Nassau Communities Hospital's emergency services to add a fourth ambulance to respond throughout the city, officials said Monday.

The city council is reorganizing the emergency services and fire department to place a greater emphasis on paramedic response, officials have said.

Long Beach officials plan to hire eight new paramedics to operate its three ambulances along with volunteer firefighters. South Nassau paramedics will manage the fourth ambulance. No start date has been set.

The new ambulance comes at no cost to the city. Under the contract, South Nassau is to bill patients for ambulance services. Contracting for the fourth ambulance instead of purchasing one is expected to save Long Beach $367,000, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

"With more ambulances, at a lower cost, we are clearly ensuring a greater level of safety than ever before," Schnirman said.

A study of the city's emergency operations by the Washington D.C.-based ICMA Center for Public Safety recommended cutting the paid firefighter force in half. But city officials said they told the Professional Firefighters Union this week that its current roster of 19 paid firefighters will not be reduced.

Long Beach has used paid firefighters on 24-hour shifts to respond to medical calls from the firehouse. Firefighters now will focus on fighting fires and only respond to emergency medical calls as needed, Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said.

Five paid Long Beach firefighters were laid off in February after a two-year $900,000 federal grant that had paid for those positions expired. The fire union is working without a contract.

The city is shifting its emergency response focus as South Nassau plans to open an emergency room and expand urgent care at the site of the Long Beach Medical Center. The $5 million expansion is expected to be completed by July.

Long Beach has been without a hospital since the medical center was flooded by superstorm Sandy in 2012. An urgent care center was opened last summer, but ambulances, 911 emergency patients and trauma patients had to be taken to hospitals in Oceanside and East Meadow.

"South Nassau has made a major commitment to improve medical services . . . so this agreement with the City of Long Beach to provide secondary backup for 911 ambulance calls is a logical next step," Richard J. Murphy, president & CEO of South Nassau Communities Hospital, said in a statement released by the city.

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