U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency Monday to release $100 million in Hurricane Sandy relief funds owed to Long Beach Medical Center, saying that bureaucratic red tape is hindering a takeover deal of the closed facility by South Nassau Communities Hospital that would restore emergency services on the barrier island.
South Nassau is looking to acquire LBMC and establish a 24-hour, 911-ambulance receiving emergency department there. However, Schumer said that currently, SNCH is not be eligible for the funds if LBMC declares bankruptcy and sells the property and its assets to South Nassau, as expected.
The 162-bed LBMC closed after 10 feet of water flooded its basement during Hurricane Sandy, causing roughly $100 million in damage. All of the major work to allow two of five wings to reopen, including the emergency department, was completed in June, at a cost of approximately $26 million, according to LBMC spokeswoman Sharon Player. LBMC received $17 million from FEMA for that work, in addition to insurance reimbursements and grants.
But state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah blocked the facility from reopening, saying that it had failed to produce a sustainable business plan that would meet the needs of the community. The state called on the hospital, which had lost more than $2 million per year since 2008, to declare bankruptcy, close its acute-care service and merge with SNCH, saying that it should function as a free-standing emergency department with urgent-care and primary-care services.
Schumer said that the FEMA funds would help SNCH rebuild and make permanent repairs at the facility.