Photos by Kristie Arden/Herald
The front row seats, reserved for representatives from SNCH and LBMC, were vacant. County Legislator Denise Ford, far right, was among those in the audience.
More than 100 people turned out to hear from invited state representatives and officials from Long Beach Medical Center and South Nassau Communities Hospital at a forum on Dec. 11 in what was supposed to be the first public meeting to update residents about the fate of LBMC, which has remained closed since Hurricane Sandy.
The representatives decided not to attend the forum, so the city’s fire commissioner, a local pediatrician and an LBMC hospital board trustee stepped up to provide the community with information related to the hospital’s closure, which remains a raw issue for many residents and former employees.
Ever since the state Department of Health blocked the storm-damaged hospital from reopening after major repair work was completed in June on two wings, including its emergency department, residents and even city officials have expressed concern about the lack of a 911-receiving emergency department on the barrier island.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said that LBMC, which had lost more than $2 million per year since 2008, had failed to produce a sustainable business plan that would meet the needs of the community. The state called on the hospital to close its acute-care service and merge with SNCH, saying that it should function as a freestanding emergency department with urgent-care and primary-care services.
To the chagrin of many residents, LBMC officials have released few details about the hospital’s status, aside from announcing that LBMC is engaged in merger talks with South Nassau, and that SNCH had received funding to establish an urgent care center at the facility.
The forum at Long Beach Public Library was put together by the Beach to Bay Central Council in the hope of learning more and dispelling rumors about the status of the facility. Co-founder Barbara Bernardino said that residents and employees are desperate for information about the fate of the hospital, what functions the proposed urgent-care center will actually perform, and whether an emergency department will reopen if LBMC merges with South Nassau.