The Long Beach City Council recently called on South Nassau Communities Hospital to hold additional public meetings “sooner rather than later” to update residents about its revised plans for the former Long Beach Medical Center property.
On Dec. 12, South Nassau held a public information session at the Long Beach Public Library, from 2 to 4 p.m., after it announced that plans to construct a medical pavilion with a new emergency room on the East Bay Drive site had changed.
In a Jan. 3 letter to South Nassau, the council called on SNCH to schedule more meetings in the evening hours, “in order to provide the same opportunity for those who cannot make a daytime meeting.”
“This will provide those residents the same opportunity to ask questions regarding the proposed plan and express their concerns about the healthcare needs in the community,” the council wrote in a joint letter with Acting City Manager Mike Tangney. “It would be greatly appreciated if this could happen sooner rather than later.”
“We still are waiting for a response,” council President Anthony Eramo said at the Jan. 15 council meeting. “We look forward to it and as soon as we get a response we’ll keep everyone informed.”
South Nassau held a series of similar public engagement meetings — which included evening hours — after it acquired LBMC in 2014 following a bankruptcy proceeding
In November, South Nassau officials said that they determined that the construction of a new medical facility with an emergency room would be too costly. Hospital officials said that the costs associated with the initial plans for a medical arts pavilion on East Bay Drive — first proposed in 2015, and slated to be housed in what remains of the medical center’s main and west wings — would far exceed the $40 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that South Nassau earmarked for the project. The funding is a portion of the $154 million in disaster relief funds originally earmarked for LBMC after Hurricane Sandy to redevelop health care services in Long Beach and to expand South Nassau’s Oceanside campus.
Officials said South Nassau is still moving forward with the construction of a medical pavilion, albeit in a different location on the property. The freestanding emergency department built in 2015 — initially intended to be a temporary facility — would continue to operate 24 hours a day, they explained, and accept ambulances.
And though it would no longer house an emergency department, hospital officials said that the pavilion would still provide the services proposed in the original plan, including OB/GYN, medical oncology and other specialties.
A number of residents criticized the change of plans in December, with some saying that South Nassau officials reneged on a promise to build a “robust” structure that would house a state-of-the-art emergency department that could accept ambulances, claims that South Nassau officials disputed. Hospital officials said that the emergency department has been a success, and that South Nassau remains committed to moving forward with the construction of a 15,000-square-foot, elevated one-story pavilion.
Joe Calderone, South Nassau’s senior vice president of corporate communications and development, told the Herald on Friday that SNCH had intended to hold additional public meetings after last month’s session, which he said would be scheduled after SNCH files formal plans for the project with the city possibly this month.
“We’re continuing to meet with civic leaders and community groups, and once we file the plans we will have additional meetings and briefings,” Calderone said, adding that hospital officials met with local PTA leaders on Friday to discuss the project and planned services. “We’re going to keep the community informed.”