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Long Beach calls for reopening hospital to handle virus patients

State Sen. Todd Kaminksy, standing in front of

State Sen. Todd Kaminksy, standing in front of the old Long Beach Medical Center, is urging for the shuttered facility to reopen. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Long Beach city and state representatives are asking the governor and health officials to consider reopening the shuttered Long Beach Medical Center or open a temporary site to treat a growing number of COVID-19 patients on the barrier island.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemb. Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach) in a March 27 letter to state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker calls Nassau County "a battleground in the fight against COVID-19” and encouraged utilizing the medical center, which has been shuttered since superstorm Sandy.

The barrier island’s positive cases have surged past 180, including in Long Beach, Lido Beach, Point Lookout and Atlantic Beach.

“I think the region itself needs to be prepared for more hospital beds in crises like this,” Kaminsky said. “Now and in the future, if coronavirus returns in the fall or there are similar pandemics, we should not be scrambling to set up field hospitals after the lesson of the last weeks.”

Mount Sinai South Nassau had 321 COVID-19 patients with about 30 ventilators available and about 57 remaining beds at last count Friday.

Officials with the hospital, which purchased the property in 2014, said the state department of general services has made one inquiry about the site but has not expressed interest about reopening the hospital or additional medical services in Long Beach, senior vice president Joe Calderone said.

Two buildings from the original Long Beach hospital remain, but require a new roof, windows, heating and ventilation and still have water standing in the basement, Calderone said.

The Long Beach City Council and Long Beach school board issued a joint statement Friday asking the state to consider reopening the hospital or developing a temporary medical site to treat patients.

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“If the former Long Beach Medical Center facility is not a viable option, we stand ready to discuss several other options we believe would suffice,” officials said. “We urge the leadership of our state to provide the barrier island with what we need to adequately address our distinctive circumstances in dealing with the challenges of this pandemic.”

Mount Sinai South Nassau operates a stand-alone emergency room adjacent to the hospital site, with a separate triage entrance to diagnose patients reporting COVID-19 symptoms, Calderone said.  About 80% of patients report mild symptoms and are sent home to self-quarantine, Calderone said. Any symptoms including trouble breathing or high fever can be transported to Mount Sinai South Nassau’s hospital in Oceanside.

After South Nassau said reopening the Long Beach hospital wasn’t sustainable in 2016, the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to an alternative use plan to allow South Nassau to spend $113 million to fortify its Oceanside hospital and build a $40 million medical arts pavilion at the old hospital.

South Nassau officials said they are preparing to follow the state’s plan to send patients to SUNY Old Westbury and Stony Brook. Officials said South Nassau staff was already stretched thin and couldn’t support a temporary site in Long Beach.

“It doesn’t make sense logistically. This is where the staff is and we have a better chance of treating patients here rather than set up another site,” Calderone said. “Unless the federal government wants to come in with the Army and staff to set up another site, it’s not practical in this crisis.”

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