Governor Cathy Hochhol says the emergency room in Long Beach is closed to reopen

The Governor of Long Beach announced Thursday that the Long Beach Emergency Department will resume 24-hour service after closing due to a shortage of nurses vaccinated against COVID-19.

The deal with Mount Sinai South Nassau, which operates the only free-standing emergency room on the barrier island, means eight to 10 nurses have been vaccinated on their way to avoid any potential month-long shutdown. The Oceanside-based hospital system closed the facility Monday and is scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. Friday.

“I will ensure that the state does everything in its power to relieve the pressure on hospitals and emergency care facilities – so please keep alerting us when there is a difficulty in healthcare facilities,” Hochul said. “I would like to thank Mount Sinai South Nassau and local community partners for working with us to restore ER services and continue to provide high-quality care to the residents of Nassau County.”

“We are grateful for the support we have received from so many individuals in making this happen and reopening our community,” said Dr. Ahni Sharma, President of Mount Sinai South Nassau.

State Senator Todd Kaminsky (DeLong Beach) said state and local leaders and Mount Sinai, south of Nassau, have asked nursing unions to approve additional employees.

“The important fact that our barrier island cannot afford to shut down these vital community assets means that all parties must work together to solve this problem and put residents first,” Kaminsky said.

Nursing union representatives were not immediately available for comment Thursday night.

The emergency room requires two nurses on duty per shift, according to Kaminsky.

“This wasn’t just a minor inconvenience, it’s a major health issue for the barrier island. Residents here struggled so hard to get a full-time emergency room and families were very scared and deserved access to emergency services in our community,” Kaminsky said. “This wasn’t something that was going to explode in a few weeks.”

Mount Sinai officials, south of Nassau, announced Monday that they will close the emergency department for several weeks due to a shortage of vaccinated nurses. The state’s mandate requires that all nursing staff receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of temporary religious exemptions, unless they have a valid medical exemption.

South Nassau officials said the state has denied their request to extend the vaccine mandate, so the hospital is working to recruit additional vaccine nurses in Long Beach over the next two weeks.

About 99% of the 3,500 South Nassau team members have been vaccinated, officials said, but they still face a nursing shortage. The hospital system fired about 10 employees last month who refused vaccinations and reviewed about 100 exemption requests, though none were granted.

The hospital’s main campus in Oceanside needed eight to 10 emergency room nurses. The nurses, vaccinated in the emergency room in Long Beach, were then taken to Oceanside.

Residents on Barrier Island, which includes Point Lookout, Lido Beach and Atlantic Beach, have been directed to travel 20 minutes over the Long Beach Bridge to Oceanside for emergency service. The hospital maintained an ambulance at the closed Long Beach facility in case of an emergency.

Elected leaders and residents rallied against closing the emergency room, which serves about 10,000 patients a year.

Besides Kaminsky, Asemp. Missy Miller (R-Atlantic Beach), as well as Hempstead Town and Long Beach officials, urged the governor’s office to send additional staff to reopen the facility.

The shutdown has put patients at risk, Miller said.

“I am grateful that Mount Sinai, the New York Department of Health and Governor Hochhol heeded our pleas and worked to find a solution to reopen this much-needed facility,” Miller said in a statement.

Hempstead officials sent a letter to Hochul on Wednesday noting the increase in response times for paramedics as COVID-19 cases are likely to increase during flu season.

“The closed emergency room is now serving residents across the barrier island,” Hempstead Town officials said in a letter to Hochhol. “The welfare of thousands of New Yorkers is at stake and we request your immediate attention to this issue.”

Following Thursday’s announcement, Long Beach City Council President John Pindo praised the efforts that led to the emergency room’s reopening.

“We thank Governor Hochul and all other elected officials for recognizing the urgency of the moment and the absolute need for adequate emergency medical services on the barrier island,” Bendo said in a statement. “Our productive and collaborative efforts, along with the strong advocacy of our citizens, have led to the full restoration of these services. Today, we have a lot to thank.”

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