Long Beach has received two additional ambulances in a contract with South Nassau Communities Hospital to offer response in the city beyond paramedics and firefighters.
Hospital and city officials unveiled the ambulances Thursday at the Long Beach Urgent Care Center, next to the hospital shuttered for three years after it was flooded by superstorm Sandy.
South Nassau is providing two ambulances in addition to the city's fleet of three ambulances, which respond out of the Long Beach Fire Department. South Nassau officials will respond on a secondary basis as needed.
"When the city has even a perceived delay, we'll be right there to support them," said Dr. Joshua Kugler, South Nassau chairman of emergency services.
The ambulances began operating last week and have responded to about five calls, Kugler said.
Ambulances have been diverted to hospitals in Oceanside and East Meadow since the hospital closed in 2012. South Nassau opened an urgent care center at the closed hospital last year, but it cannot receive ambulances or 911 calls.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said the town is also replacing a boat ramp that can deliver patients at the entrance from Reynolds Channel. Murray said the emergency room will also serve Lido Beach, Point Lookout and Island Park.
Long Beach is hiring and training eight paramedics to be deployed by this summer to operate the city's first response ambulance, followed by the backup ambulance by South Nassau. Additional ambulances will be run as needed by volunteer and professional firefighters, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.
The city is restructuring its emergency services to direct the fire department to focus primarily on firefighting calls while the city's primary 911 calls are for medical response.
Long Beach fire union president Bill Piazza said the new ambulances are taking jobs from paid firefighters. "This is a step as to take EMS away from cross-trained firemen and eventually do away with the department as a whole," he said.
City officials said they are adding more medical response and maximizing firefighting missions without laying off firefighters. "It's hard to imagine why anyone would oppose this kind of progress," Schnirman said.