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Long Beach emergency department delayed by 'bureaucracy'

The South Nassau Urgent Care Center at Long

The South Nassau Urgent Care Center at Long Beach was slated to open with a newly renovated $8 million emergency department on July 1, 2015, but was stalled pending federal and state approvals. The building is shown here on June 30, 2015. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The hoped-for opening Wednesday of a free-standing emergency department in Long Beach will be delayed at least a month pending final federal and state approvals, South Nassau Communities Hospital officials said.

Instead, the facility will reopen Wednesday temporarily as an urgent-care center, which cannot accept ambulances via the 911 system.

Hospital officials said Tuesday the $8 million emergency department expansion is complete but the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires a higher-grade emergency electrical backup system.

Hospital spokesman Joe Calderone said Tuesday that the hospital was still trying to figure out how much money and time it will take to install the new system.

"We're hopeful that we can persuade the federal government to issue a waiver," he said.

In addition, the hospital is awaiting certification from the state Department of Health for the new emergency department's laboratory, which should take several weeks, hospital officials said.

"This project was completed in record time," South Nassau chief executive Richard Murphy said in a statement. "We hope the Long Beach community will continue to use the urgent-care center while we undergo these additional regulatory reviews, which are required before we can open as a full-fledged, off-campus emergency department. Our goal is to open as an emergency department as soon as we are legally able to do so."

Politicians were upset by the postponement and called for the federal government to allow the facility to open.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) called the delay "very disappointing" and said she was going to "invite officials from CMS to come here and see for themselves that this facility is ready."

Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said, "The bureaucracy standing in the way of this emergency room reopening must be swiftly dealt with."

And Long Beach City Councilman Anthony Eramo asked that "the federal government grant South Nassau the necessary waiver."

Construction for the emergency department -- on the same spot as the current South Nassau Urgent Care Center at Long Beach -- began in early April. The $5 million, 6,000-square-foot urgent-care center, which opened last July, was expanded and upgraded to 8,200 square feet.

The upgrade includes installation of a "Type 3" emergency backup electrical system, which provides battery backup power for up to 90 minutes and a natural-gas powered, stand-alone generator. But CMS requires a "Type 1" backup, which is capable of providing uninterrupted power -- using diesel or propane -- to someone on life support.

The new facility -- which will be one of only four free-standing emergency departments statewide -- has six treatment rooms that can handle up to 17 patients, as well as an observation area with three patient beds.

It includes a negative-pressure room designed to protect others from possible infectious diseases, a treatment area that can accommodate obese patients, a behavioral health room for those in mental health crisis, a medical laboratory and a medical imaging department with an X-ray, portable X-ray machine and a 64-slice CT scanner.

The 4-foot-wide corridors have been doubled to accommodate gurneys, and the emergency department has a triple air filtration system and a special room for decontamination with its own entrance.

When the emergency department opens, at least eight staff members will be available around the clock, said Dr. Joshua Kugler, chairman of South Nassau's department of emergency medicine, including a doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist, pharmacist, lab technician, social worker and registration/business person.

Patients who require hospital admission would be transferred by ambulance to South Nassau in Oceanside.

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