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Glen Cove rally opposes downsizing local hospital

More than 500 people rallied in Glen Cove on Saturday to protest North Shore-LIJ's plan to convert the hospital into an ambulatory center in January.

Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi told the crowd that more than 18,000 people have signed petitions urging North Shore-LIJ to keep the medical facility as a full-service hospital.

Suozzi said pressure being put on the health care provider by residents and politicians helped convince it to not to decertify all 265 beds at the hospital.

"We're having an influence on the decision-making," Suozzi said. "But we don't need a pacifier like a child screaming; we don't need a thumb in our mouth. We want real inpatient beds ... We want a functioning hospital here so you can get medical care."

North Shore-LIJ plans to move several inpatient programs with a total of 103 beds from Glen Cove, including the traumatic brain unit, orthopedic surgery program, psychiatry program and inpatient physical rehabilitation program, to other hospitals.

Tom Suozzi, who is running to retake the Nassau County Executive seat and is a former Glen Cove mayor, joined his cousin Ralph on stage to lead the crowd in a "save our hospital" chant.

"They are wrong in this decision-making. This is a bad process," Tom Suozzi said. "They have not included the public in this conversation."

North Shore-LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam said in an email that discussions with the Glen Cove mayor and elected officials, community leaders and local physicians are ongoing.

"The most important thing people need to understand is that Glen Cove Hospital is not closing, it's just evolving to meet community needs," Lynam said.

Speakers at the rally said that they feared those changes -- which would leave an emergency room in Glen Cove -- could endanger lives because patients would need to be transported to other hospitals for inpatient care.

Some protesters carried signs that read "Gov. Cuomo Save Our Hospital." Mayor Suozzi said in an interview that he has met with Cuomo's representatives and would like to see the governor "get more involved and take a stand."

Cuomo's office referred a request for comment to the state health department. The agency said North Shore-LIJ has not yet submitted a conversion plan.

"If one is submitted, [the department] will review the plan to determine whether it best serves the health, safety and needs of patients and residents," health department spokesman Bill Schwarz said in a statement.

Glen Cove City Councilman Reginald Spinello, who is running against the Democratic mayor on the Republican, Independence Party and conservative lines, said Suozzi had turned the rally into a partisan event.

Spinello noted that while unelected Democratic candidates spoke, he had not been invited to speak and only found out about the rally when he received a robocall.

Toward the end of the rally, a few political operatives walked through the crowds with clipboards asking people if they were interested in helping out on Democratic campaigns. Asked why Spinello had not spoken at the rally, Suozzi said anyone had been welcome to speak.

Spinello said the most important issue was not politics but the impact on the community.

"The hospital has decided to make a change to their business model and what we have to do is try to minimize the impact as much as possible," Spinello said.

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