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There's only one answer for Long Beach ER

The generator in Long Beach.

The generator in Long Beach. Credit: Lane Filler

Since superstorm Sandy nearly three years ago, Long Beach has been without an emergency room. Now it has one -- a gleaming $8-million facility built by South Nassau Communities Hospital. But an ambulance can't take a patient there.

In this busy summer season it so far is operating as an urgent-care provider but when a serious medical need arises, a patient has to be transported off the island because of a minor technicality: how the emergency room's backup generator is fueled.

Federal regulations say it must be powered by either propane or diesel fuel. The Long Beach facility's generator will run on natural gas. The distinction is important. The emergency room and generator are built to 100-year-flood standards. There has never been a weather-caused natural gas interruption there. If the main power were to go out and the generator failed, the emergency room would still have 90 minutes of backup battery power. If a facility-threatening storm were forecast, the emergency room would close, and patients would be moved off the barrier island, according to hospital officials.

And this emergency room, already approved by the state, is only intended to serve for three years: It will be replaced by a medical arts building and new emergency room built to 500-year-flood standards.

With the summer enticing visitors to the beach, the emergency room is needed. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is fighting to get the facility open, as is Rep. Kathleen Rice. A final decision from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected later this month.

The answer should be yes.