Another step back for Long Beach

Renovation of the Long Beach Urgent Care Center – resulting in Long Island’s first off-campus, 24-hour emergency services department – was completed in “record time.” Unfortunately, state and federal regulators don’t move as quickly.

Until regulators offer final approvals, the rebuilt South Nassau Communities Hospital facility – which includes a three-bed “observation unit” and treatment areas for infectious diseases and behavioral-health cases – will not be open 24 hours per day and cannot receive ambulances through the 911 emergency system.

Instead, as of July 1, it will function as a temporary Urgent Care Center with limited hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Despite the lagging regulatory approvals, hospitals officials are thrilled with the extensive upgrades, which were completed in under three months, besting South Nassau’s July 1 target date.

“This project was completed in record time,” South Nassau President and CEO Richard Murphy said in a written statement. “Our goal is to open as an emergency department as soon as we are legally able to do so.”

South Nassau has been working closely with the New York State Department of Health to obtain the necessary state approvals. Proficiency testing of an on-site laboratory, part of the state certification process, is underway, the hospital said in the statement.

Hospital officials are also awaiting approvals from the U.S. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid, and before they can officially operate the Long Beach facility as an emergency department must earn a federal waiver for a newly installed emergency power backup system, which includes 90 minutes of battery power and a stand-alone natural gas-powered generator.

First-term State Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach, said he would be “working every day with state and federal partners to expedite” the emergency department’s opening.

“Getting a 911-receiving emergency room open for this summer was at the top of my priority list when I took office (in January),” Kaminsky said in the statement. “We are so very close to achieving this goal.”

The $8 million Urgent Care Center renovation (more costly than the $5 million renovation South Nassau officials announced last winter) is part of a series of upgrades and construction projects planned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated Long Beach Hospital in 2012. Hospital officials are also planning to construct a new Medical Arts Pavilion on the site of the shuttered hospital, a 30,000-square-foot “hospital without beds” stocked with numerous state-of-the-art medical technologies.

For now, the Long Beach community will have to make do with the Urgent Care Center, which will be “staffed by nurses and physicians who are specially trained in emergency medicine,” according to South Nassau. Patients seen at the UCC will be registered through the South Nassau electronic medical records system and, if necessary, transported by ambulance and admitted to the hospital system’s nearby Oceanside campus, located just five miles from the Long Beach UCC.

“The Long Beach facility has the same South Nassau staff and same high standards of patient care as our Oceanside Emergency Department,” Dr. Joshua Kugler, chairman of South Nassau’s Emergency Medicine Department, said in the release. “We have been working with the design team to ensure it has all the equipment and features we need to operate effectively in Long Beach.”