City leaders and community members urged Mount Sinai South Nassau to reopen a Long Beach emergency room at a rally Tuesday night outside the facility, shuttered because of a shortage of vaccinated nurses.
About 50 people came out to oppose the Oceanside hospital's decision to close the facility Monday night. Hospital officials have said the barrier island's only stand-alone emergency room could be closed through at least mid-December.
Long Beach leaders said they were only given a few hours notice Monday that hospital officials had filed a notice of closure with the state health department. Officials with Mount Sinai South Nassau said the closure was needed to transfer about 8 to 10 vaccinated nurses and staff to the emergency room of the main Oceanside hospital.
City Council President John Bendo said if hospital staff is mostly vaccinated, they should be able to juggle schedules to keep Long Beach open.
The Long Beach emergency department sees about 10,000 patients per year, Bendo said, compared to 70,000 patients annually in Oceanside.
During the closure, residents of the barrier island, including Point Lookout, Lido Beach and Atlantic Beach, are forced to drive 20 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic, over the Long Beach bridge to Oceanside, Bendo said.
"It seemed like they made it awful rash and quickly," Bendo said of the decision to close the facility. "I think we’re all here tonight to say we’re not buying it. We think you can get this place open again and give us the medical services you promised."
Mount Sinai officials said they are seeking additional nurses to staff the facility in the next two weeks and hope to reopen Long Beach by Dec. 15.
The state Department of Health said Monday it was reviewing Mount Sinai South Nassau’s temporary closure plan.
"Ensuring health care workers and covered entities who care for our loved ones are vaccinated is critical to keeping New Yorkers safe and protecting our health care system," spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said.
It is the only ambulance and 911 receiving emergency department on the barrier island opened in 2015 after the Long Beach Medical Center closed following superstorm Sandy.
Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) said Gov. Kathy Hochul should call the National Guard to staff the emergency department.
"This is a tragedy befalling Long Beach once again. We need to make sure Mount Sinai finds the resources to reopen as soon as possible," Ford said. "It’s time for New York to step up before a tragedy occurs."
Long Beach School Board Vice President Anne Conway read a letter by the school board and the superintendent saying Mount Sinai should be able to replace the missing nurses.
"For many, the absence of an emergency room on the barrier island can be the difference between life and death. This is not a luxury, this is a necessity," she said on behalf of the board. "We are a mindful, compassionate and resilient community. We deserve better."