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Long Beach residents want FEMA medical funds to stay in city

Residents react in support of a speaker advocating

Residents react in support of a speaker advocating for medical services in Long Beach during a forum on Monday, April 13, 2015 about South Nassau Communities Hospital and the Department of Health meeting hospital needs in Long Beach. Credit: Newsday / John Asbury

Long Beach residents and officials are calling on South Nassau Hospitals to devote the entirety of $154 million in disaster relief funds to medical services in the city.

About 1,000 residents and elected officials met this week at Long Beach City Hall at a forum with South Nassau executives and members of the state health department.

Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) requested the hearing after the Long Beach Medical Center was shuttered by superstorm Sandy in 2012.

South Nassau added an urgent care center at the hospital last year, but it cannot accept 911 calls or ambulances, which have to transport to South Nassau hospitals in Oceanside and East Meadow.

Officials announced plans last month to open an urgent care 911-receiving emergency room by July 1, with plans for a $40 million medical arts building within the next three years. South Nassau also has agreed to provide secondary ambulance response to the city.

Hospital officials said they may pursue an alternative use plan, and use a portion of the $154 million in reimbursements they expect from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at hospitals in Oceanside or East Meadow, which can serve Long Beach residents.

Kaminsky and City Council members said the entire $154 million should be spent in Long Beach to restore medical services and facilities lost after Sandy.

"The community made it very clear that they want the medical services and jobs that they used to have," Kaminsky said.

South Nassau CEO Richard Murphy said he could not specify how much of the FEMA dollars could be spent in Long Beach. The company completed its $11.8 million purchase of the hospital in October after the facility filed for bankruptcy and has not been reimbursed by FEMA.

"Any amount we receive, we have to spend ourselves first. We were asked to serve as a bridge using our financial strength," Murphy said. "The challenge here is serving the mission of South Nassau as a regional health care facility, and any capital investments will serve that mission."

Long Beach residents told South Nassau and state officials the city's 39,000 residents and nearly 20,000 visitors need a hospital. Lido Beach firefighters said response times have increased to 20 minutes and turnaround times to two hours.

South Nassau plans to conduct a community needs survey to determine what services will be offered in Long Beach and what can make the hospital financially sustainable, Murphy said.

"We're fully aware the traumatic process the city and the people have been through and what they've suffered," Murphy said. "We have to consider the health resources to all towns on the South Shore. There's an unlimited need for health care and not enough resources."

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