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Thursday, November 20, 2014

LBMC needs $30 million fix
Storm-ravaged hospital plans mid-March reopening
Alexandra Spychalsky
Penny Frondelli/Herald
The hospital’s lower levels were destroyed by floodwater during Hurricane Sandy.

More than two months after Hurricane Sandy flooded the Long Beach Medical Center’s lower levels, hospital officials say that the facility will remain closed for at least two more months.

LBMC Chief Executive Officer Douglas Melzer announced last week that the hospital is aiming to reopen in mid-March. The building suffered extensive damage in the storm, and was closed. The total cost of repairs is now estimated at between $30 million and $32 million, Melzer said.

About 700 of the hospital’s 1,200 employees have been furloughed and are currently out of work, which, according to Sharon Player, its director of public affairs, LBMC officials deeply regret. “That’s the hardest part,” said Player, “especially at holiday time.”

Player said that facility officials have requested that other Long Island hospitals hire members of the staff until the hospital reopens. Some hospitals were able to help, she said, but not as many as they had hoped. When the hospital reopens, it will attempt to bring back all of the employees, which she said would be a gradual process.

Melzer said that the focus has been on opening smaller medical services throughout Long Beach as the hospital undergoes repairs.

The facility was hit hard by the storm, Player said, explaining that the entire basement level — mechanical systems, the hospital’s pharmacy, laundry rooms, a stockroom and family care offices — was flooded by 10 feet of water. Workers removed all of the basement’s contents, which she described as a laborious process. She added that workers are currently sanitizing and sterilizing the area, and that stringent health codes have prolonged the cleanup.

“We are trying to repair and restore our facility, so we have no revenue coming in,” Player said. “It’s very difficult because you need the funds to carry you over until you can start to make money again.”

Now the facility must determine where the money needed to complete the repairs will come from. According to Player, the cost is usually split among federal and state agencies and the hospital itself: the Federal Emergency Management Agency typically picks up 75 percent of the cost, while the state and the hospital each contribute 12.5 percent.

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