In what officially kicked off a lengthy state environmental review process, South Nassau Communities Hospital filed building and environmental assessment applications with the Town of Hempstead and City of Long Beach on Friday to move forward with plans to build a permanent medical facility in Long Beach and expand its Oceanside campus.
The estimated cost of the projects total $279 million, which includes $154 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds originally earmarked for the Long Beach Medical Center after Hurricane Sandy, before South Nassau acquired LBMC in 2014 for $11.8 million in a bankruptcy sale.
South Nassau submitted building department applications and environmental assessment forms to begin the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for the proposed projects, which officials said would kick off a regulatory and environmental review that is expected to take at least 18 months.
The state environmental review process, officials said, is mandatory to determine the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed projects and must be completed before construction can begin.
“It’s an 18- to 24 month-long process that we’re required to do under state law, and it’s an opportunity for each jurisdiction — Long Beach and the Town of Hempstead — to review any potential environmental impacts on the projects,” said Joe Calderone, South Nassau’s senior vice president of corporate communications and development. “We’re going to go through the entire process, and we’re hopeful that the projects will move along.”
South Nassau will hold a series of public information sessions in Oceanside and Long Beach over the next two weeks, beginning on Tuesday, to discuss its proposed plans.
“This is preliminary,” Calderone said. “This is the opening of the dialogue with the community, and there is plenty of time for public comment and review.”
Plans call for Medical Arts Pavilion in Long Beach
The plans call for the construction of a $45 million, 25,000-square-foot Medical Arts Pavilion on the former LBMC campus, with an expanded 24-hour emergency department and about 15 exam rooms, as well as primary care and radiology services, space for a variety of medical subspecialists, and women’s and children’s health services. Additionally, officials said that the building would be constructed to accommodate a third floor to potentially house additional services based on need.
South Nassau officials said that rebuilding a full-service hospital is not financially viable, and maintain that a temporary emergency department in Long Beach, which SNCH opened in 2015, is capable of stabilizing and treating patients. Those who require hospital admission or advanced treatment are transferred by ambulance to South Nassau or another hospital.
The proposed Long Beach facility would increase those capabilities and offer more services, hospital officials said. Plans also call for an emergency staging area on the site that can be utilized to transport patients by helicopter, as well as a boat ramp and dock for emergency access.
“I am fully committed to South Nassau’s plan to restore medical services to the barrier island,” Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) said in a statement. “Their proposal to build a Medical Arts Pavilion, establish a permanent home emergency department in Long Beach, and improve our hospital in Oceanside is the most viable option to ensure that residents of the South Shore, including the barrier island, have access to quality health care now and in the future.”
South Nassau to expand in Oceanside
The proposed four-story southwest addition in Oceanside, meanwhile, includes an expanded emergency department, new critical-care beds and new operating suites.
It would nearly double the size of the hospital’s existing emergency department, and includes a two-floor, 40-bed intensive care unit — it currently has 26 intensive care beds — to meet a growing need for critical care on the South Shore.
A three-story parking structure — to be paid for by South Nassau — and a new central utility and emergency electrical plant also are proposed for the Oceanside campus to alleviate parking issues in the area and to harden the main campus against future major storms. Officials say that the Oceanside hospital is in need of expansion.
South Nassau's emergency department is designed to handle 35,000 patients per year, but actually takes in around 65,000, officials said. Last year, South Nassau was certified as a Level II trauma center, and hospital officials said that the Oceanside expansion would benefit Long Beach and many other South Shore residents.
“These projects represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve health care for the South Shore of Nassau County for decades to come,” Richard Murphy, South Nassau’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “When completed, the combined result of our plan will be a delivery system of primary, acute and specialized healthcare services that is uniquely tailored to the meet the healthcare needs of the diverse communities we serve.”
Lawsuit against FEMA over funding still pending
Last year, FEMA approved South Nassau’s alternative use plan to build the emergency medical facility in Long Beach and expand its Oceanside campus. The provision, South Nassau officials said, allows the federal funds “to be spent in an area outside of the immediate impact zone where storm damage occurred as long as the proposed project benefits the impacted area.”
The submission of applications comes amid a lawsuit that was filed against FEMA last year by members of the Beach to Bay Central Council of Civic Associations, which has been advocating for the rebuilding of a local hospital.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, claims that the federal funding was meant to restore medical services in Long Beach, and that FEMA violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment by allowing the money to be spent in Oceanside and disregarding community input.
Beach to Bay is also seeking an injunction to halt the distribution of the funds, and an advisory opinion from the court to determine whether the money is being used appropriately.
Barbara Bernardino, president of Beach to Bay, said that South Nassau was being “presumptuous” by moving ahead before the court’s decision.
“The lawsuit hasn’t been determined,” said Bernardino, a Democrat running for City Council this year. “We think that the alternative use plan was implemented incorrectly.”
South Nassau was not named in the litigation, and a United States attorney called on a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit in December. The case is still pending.
“We are going ahead,” Calderone said. “It’s not impacting our timeline at this point.”
The public information sessions are scheduled for:
• Tuesday, July 11, from 2 to 4 p.m., and Thursday, July 13 from 5 to 8 p.m., at South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Conference Center, One Healthy Way, in Oceanside.
• Wednesday, July 19, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Tuesday, July 25, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Long Beach Public Library, 111 West Park Ave.