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FEMA gives first OK to SNCH plans

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] has granted one of two approvals needed by South Nassau Communities Hospital [SNCH] to construct a medical arts and emergency facility in Long Beach, and expand the hospital itself.

A total of 16 different resources including air, water, wetlands, cultural, noise, public health and safety and hazardous materials among others were evaluated according to National Environmental Policy Act guidelines. The finding showed the projects “will have no significant adverse impact on the quality of the human environment in relation to post-disaster conditions.”

FEMA considered three proposed alternatives: do nothing, the proposed medical arts building and hospital expansion and restoring the remaining Long Beach facilities.

In addition to the FEMA investigation, the hospital’s proposed plans were opened to public comment that ended July 5. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Beach to Bay Civic Association are on record as commenting on the various areas evaluated.

FEMA found “There would be no effect on soils, topography, geology, or land use. The project sites are currently completely developed in medical facility uses and those conditions will not change. There would also be no effect on historic and archaeological resources.”

The approval means the projects will not have to undergo an extensive environmental review.

The state health and environmental conservation departments and local zoning boards must still conduct additional reviews.

FEMA must now approve how SNCH plans to used the money allocated to the Hurricane Sandy damaged Long Beach Medical Center, which was purchased out of bankruptcy by the hospital after the storm.

SNCH has already established a free standing Emergency Department in Long Beach located at 325 East Bay Drive, that, according to the FEMA report, “since opening, has treated more than 6,700 patients, nearly 88 percent of whom were treated and released without having to leave the barrier island. Only 8.7 percent of the patients seen at the Long Beach facility had to be admitted to the main hospital in Oceanside.”

The plans call for the construction of a 25,000-square-foot “Long Beach Medical Arts Pavilion” designed to accommodate 12,000 to 18,000 emergency department patient visits per year.

The hospital is also planning a major upgrade to its Oceanside facility. Changes proposed include: a four story facility that will house an expansion of the current emergency department, primary care, critical care unit and surgical services to be constructed adjacent to the main hospital in an area previously used for parking, upgrading the electrical infrastructure of the hospital to withstand hurricane force winds and localized flooding, to expand and mitigate the Central Utility Plant, and renovate interior spaces in the existing hospital that are adjacent to the proposed Southwest Addition.

In addition residents from Long Beach, and Island Park have filed a civil rights lawsuit against FEMA challenging the split funding. They claim the funds were for the damaged Long Beach facility, which they want rebuilt as a hospital. The projects may be on hold until that suit is decided.

Joe Calderone, SNCH senior vice president for corporate communications and development said in an email,"The FEMA finding is a significant step forward. We are pleased FEMA agrees the projects in Long Beach and Oceanside would improve health services for the South Shore and we are eager to move the projects to the next phase. We will continue to work closely with community leaders and our neighbors as the plans develop."