Most Long Beach residents are satisfied with their medical care, according to a poll commissioned by South Nassau Communities Hospital.
In a telephone survey of 300 adults conducted in early December by a national polling firm, 87 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their medical care. And 66 percent said they had a very positive or somewhat positive opinion of South Nassau.
The poll comes after the Oceanside hospital opened an $8-million free-standing emergency department in Long Beach in August because residents were concerned they wouldn’t be able to get off the barrier island quickly enough to get emergency care elsewhere, especially in the summer.
South Nassau commissioned the poll as part of an extensive assessment to be completed by mid-February that hospital officials said will give them a road map for what kind of health care Long Beach needs going forward.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded South Nassau $154 million to redevelop regional health services for Long Beach and the South Shore after the closing of Long Beach Medical Center after superstorm Sandy in October 2012. South Nassau purchased the bankrupt hospital two years later.
The poll, which included 20 questions, was conducted by the national firm LJR Custom Strategies based in New Orleans, and has a margin of error of 5.6 percent. Seventy-eight percent of respondents were surveyed on landlines and the rest on cellphones. A majority of the respondents, 65 percent, were 50 or older. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, a little more than 38 percent of Long Beach residents are 50 and older.
Jennifer Johnson, president of LJR, said telephone polls “do tend to skew a bit older” and that there was no statistical difference in answers from other age groups.
“I think it establishes a neutral baseline of information from the community,” said South Nassau chief executive Richard Murphy. “It’s from a reputable polling agency and gives us a clean picture of the health care needs and perceptions of the community.”
Murphy said the hospital decided to do the poll, which cost less than $10,000, based on the recommendation of Bruce Vladeck, former head of Health Care Financing Administration in the Clinton administration, and a senior adviser at Nexera, a Manhattan-based health care consulting firm, who is conducting the needs assessment.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they had a primary care doctor, 47 percent of whom said the doctor was on the barrier island. Thirty-one percent said they had been to an emergency room or walk-in clinic within the last year; of those, 18 percent said the emergency department or clinic had been on Long Beach.
Ten percent of those polled said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with medical care on the barrier island. Of that percentage, 23 percent said the reason was it was too hard to get an appointment; 20 percent said they didn’t like the doctors and facilities available to them.
State Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) praised South Nassau for commissioning the poll. “I hope that this is just the start,” he said. “Getting an emergency room here was an important first step but there is much more to do to get medical services on the barrier island back to where they need to be.”
Dr. Martin Gruber, a retired orthopedic surgeon who is active in the Beach to Bay Central Council of Civic Associations, which has been vocal in its support for rebuilding a hospital in Long Beach, said his worry is that the island has too few primary care doctors and that attracting new ones will be difficult without a hospital close by.
“My feeling is that what we need is an integrated system with a hospital on the island supporting a renewed primary care population,” he said.
Sam Pinto, president of the Long Beach Eastholme Civic Association, also commended South Nassau for doing the survey. But, he said in an email, the survey should have had other questions “including the impact of having no hospital on the barrier island, or having to travel a distance to a hospital.” He also called on the hospital to share the survey with the community.
In the meantime, visits to South Nassau’s free-standing emergency department on Long Beach show a steady increase since it opened in August, according to data obtained from the hospital: from 614 patients in August when it opened, to 761 in December. About 10 percent of those ended up being transferred to South Nassau.
Murphy said he expects the number of visits to the emergency department to continue to grow.
“We’re trending toward 9,000 for 2016,” he said. He said he believed the figure would eventually reach 12,000, the number of visits to the emergency department reported yearly by the now-defunct Long Beach Medical Center.