Long Beach Medical Center eyes late-March reopening

Hospital's costs associated with Hurricane Sandy expected to total $56 million


Long Beach Medical Center’s costs associated with Hurricane Sandy are expected to reach $56 million. CEO Doug Melzer said he is hopeful the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover most, if not all, of the costs.

However, Melzer said that the reimbursement process has slowed repairs at the 162-bed hospital, which remains closed.

“It definitely slows the process down because we want to make sure that FEMA is going to reimburse us for the dollars that are laid out to do this work,” Melzer said. “We don’t want to embark on something beyond what FEMA is going to approve. So we have to wait for their review and approval of the work before we proceed.”

Flooding during the storm completely damaged the hospital’s basement area, which houses not only the facility’s electrical, heating and mechanical systems, but also its pharmacy, central supply and purchasing departments as well as a family care center. The $56 million includes the costs of repairs and storm mitigation work, officials said.

Though FEMA typically picks up 75 percent of the costs while the state and hospital pay for 12.5 percent of the costs, respectively, Melzer said he is hoping that FEMA kicks in a larger percentage to help the facility reopen.

“Governor Cuomo is asking the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the cost,” said LBMC spokeswoman Sharon Player. “There have been instances when the dollar amounts are so large and the devastation so great that FEMA has altered its reimbursement rate to 90 percent and 100 percent.”

LBMC has opened a family and primary medical care facility in a temporary space at 761 Franklin Blvd., while its faculty group practice has reopened at 206 West Park Ave.

Still, Melzer acknowledged that with the hospital closed, there are no emergency room services in the city. Currently, those in need of emergency care are being transported to South Nassau Communities Hospital, Nassau University Medical Center and other facilities.

Melzer said that LBMC is aiming to reopen its west and main pavilions in late March, which he said will allow the facility to reopen its emergency room, intensive care unit, operating rooms and some inpatient services, among others.

“We recognize the importance of reopening the hospital as quickly as possible to provide needed healthcare services to the community,” Melzer said. “And the city tells us that as well, because obviously they have to run the ambulances and that becomes a challenge to be able to constantly travel outside of the community. We’re told it takes about a 90-minute turnaround time … depending where you are on the island. It’s a challenge for the EMS system in Long Beach.”