U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice and Nassau County Legis. Denise Ford have backed a plan to spend about $130 million in federal disaster relief funds on hospital improvements in Oceanside and $40 million on a medical center with an emergency room in Long Beach.
The lesser amount of $170 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds will be used by South Nassau Communities Hospital to build a Medical Arts Pavilion and emergency room to replace the Long Beach Medical Center, which was extensively damaged by superstorm Sandy in 2012. Residents and community groups continue to push for all of the money to be spent in Long Beach.
Rice (D-Garden City) and Ford (R-Long Beach) co-signed a letter to FEMA this month supporting the funding plan by South Nassau.
“We write today in support of FEMA’s environmental assessment of the proposal by the nonprofit South Nassau Communities Hospital to improve the health care facility in Long Beach and their hospital in Oceanside, which also serves Long Beach residents,” Rice and Ford stated.
They noted that the old Long Beach Medical Center was struggling financially when it was flooded and damaged during Sandy.
The new Long Beach Medical Arts pavilion is to include a 9,500-square-foot emergency department, facilities for dialysis, lab work, X-rays and radiology, and a pharmacy.
“We agree with your finding that the entire community would benefit from the renovations and mitigation to both Long Beach and Oceanside sites with minor impact to either community,” the letter stated. “And we believe the improvements proposed by South Nassau will ensure better access to care than was available to Long Beach residents before Sandy hit.”
South Nassau purchased the 162-bed Long Beach hospital out of bankruptcy in 2014 and chief executive Richard Murphy said restoring the hospital was not financially viable. The hospital previously lost about $11 million per year. Murphy said the Long Beach Medical Center did not have the level of care, such as cardiac services, to meet the needs of the community.
“This will benefit the wider South Shore and enhance services not only in Long Beach but the entire community,” Murphy said in an interview. “Had the storm not occurred, we might have had the same result and the hospital could not maintain itself over time. South Nassau has a responsibility to the community.”
A group of residents with the Beach to Bay Civic Association has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip seeking to have $154 million in FEMA funding reallocated to stay in Long Beach.
The organization is seeking a small community hospital be built in Long Beach for local residents, including low-income families and the elderly, who are unable to travel to Oceanside, Beach to Bay president Barbara Dubow Bernardino said. The group has had several meetings with elected officials and the hospital, but were unable to reach an agreement.
“I guess they [Rice and Ford] have an opportunity to stand with the community or a corporation,” Dubow Bernardino said. “Everything clearly illustrates a small hospital is necessary on the barrier island.”