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Long Beach information session held on plans for new medical center

Lori Edelman, director of emergency department nursing at

Lori Edelman, director of emergency department nursing at South Nassau Communities Hospital, speaks beside Richard J. Murphy, president & CEO of South Nassau Communities Hospital, left, and Joshua Kugler, MD, chair of emergency medicine, right, during a press conference at the Long Beach Hotel Wednesday, March 18, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Beach resident Gerri Klein, 80, showed up early for South Nassau Communities Hospital's information day Wednesday looking for answers.

The information day, held at the Long Beach Hotel, followed a morning media briefing in which the Oceanside hospital formally announced plans to build a two-story, 30,000- square-foot medical arts building on the site of the former Long Beach Medical Center.

Chief executive Richard Murphy said he hoped the information session "would be the first of what we hope will be many community forums" as he detailed plans for a 24/7 emergency department and other services, which could include family medicine, behavioral health, dialysis and ambulatory surgery. The hospital has commissioned a study to determine which services are most needed.

Murphy, who estimated the South Nassau Medical Arts Pavilion could cost up to $40 million, said it would add 50 to 75 more clinical jobs.

Long Beach residents and officials have been pushing for an emergency department since the 162-bed Long Beach hospital was closed after flooding from superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Five months ago, South Nassau purchased the bankrupt hospital for $11.8 million, and in January the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would give South Nassau $154 million to redevelop health services for Long Beach and the South Shore.

South Nassau opened an urgent care center on the site last July. Last month the hospital said it would upgrade the center to a freestanding emergency department by July 1. The pavilion emergency department would eventually replace that one. Murphy said state approvals could take up to a year and construction could take 18 to 24 months.

Ronald Blitch, president of Blitch Knevel Architects, the New Orleans-based firm designing the pavilion, said that it is more cost effective to build a new structure rather than to upgrade the current hospital building. Once a hospital has been closed more than six months, it has to be brought up to current codes, he said.

The central, "founders" and east wings of the hospital were too damaged and too old to be salvageable, he said. Bidding for their demolition is in the final stages, Murphy said.

Blitch said the west and main wings "have good bones," but they also are not up to code in 88 categories and would have to be stripped to the foundation. Murphy said using them for assisted living or offices are possibilities.

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) Wednesday called South Nassau's plan "a big step in the right direction."

"The community now needs an opportunity to review and be heard on this important plan," he said.

That was exactly what Klein was there for. A stroke survivor, she said her concern is how long it could take to get her appropriate care in case of another stroke.

"I am nervous about it," she said. "All the residents are."

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