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Editorial: Smart remedy for Long Beach hospital future

The Long Beach Medical Center was closed by

The Long Beach Medical Center was closed by superstorm Sandy. Credit: Steve Pfost

At long last, Long Beach is on a path toward getting the medical services it needs. It's unfortunate that it took so long to get this ball rolling, but residents and executives of Long Beach Medical Center fought so hard for the full facility to reopen after Sandy that the barrier island was left without emergency hospital services while the battle raged.

Even before the storm, Long Beach Medical Center was underwater. It was a hospital many avoided when they had a choice. Losing money consistently, it stayed alive only by too frequently admitting patients from the adjoining 200-bed nursing home for stays that were too long, at rates that were too high. But it was also, with 1,200 workers, the biggest employer in town. That led local officials, merchants and residents to fight for a full reopening. The plan wasn't workable, particularly when Medicare and Medicaid are getting tougher on reimbursements for the kind of admittances the hospital relied on and when insurers are squeezing payments to independent hospitals.

This week a bankruptcy court judge approved the $12-million sale of the hospital to South Nassau Communities Hospital of Oceanside. The buyer will open a 24-hour emergency department and an urgent-care clinic. Sale of the nursing home, which reopened four months after Sandy hit, was also approved. A group that operates nursing homes in Rockaway will purchase it for $17 million.

Long Beach needs an emergency room, particularly in the summer, when traffic over the island's three motor-vehicle bridges to the mainland thickens and it can take as long as 45 minutes to drive to South Nassau or Nassau University Medical Center. Injured and ill patients must be stabilized. South Nassau says it can get the walk-in clinic open by summer, but the emergency room will take longer. Sooner would be better, because for the services that will be provided locally, the need is serious.