Long Beach residents battle for shuttered hospital

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Long Beach residents are waging a legal battle against FEMA, saying that money meant to restore the Superstorm Sandy-battered Long Beach Medical Center is instead being earmarked for another project outside the city.

"It feels like we're being left out, kind of bullied a little bit," says Chris Jones, of Long Beach, ostensibly echoing what many residents feel about a plan that they say leaves the community at risk.

Those residents lost their hospital after Sandy, and now South Nassau Communities Hospital -- which bought the bankrupt Long Beach Medical Center -- plans to spend roughly one-third of the FEMA money it received to build its Medical Arts Pavilion instead of a new hospital. The bulk of the federal money will be spent on an addition to South Nassau Communities Hospital's Oceanside campus.

"All of that will benefit Long Beach and the entire South Shore," says Joseph Calderone, of South Nassau Communities Hospital. "If you need critical care, if you need trauma-level emergency care, if you need an operation, you're going to benefit by having a strong South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside in addition to what we are doing on the barrier island."

South Nassau officials say building a full-service hospital in Long Beach does not make fiscal sense and, according to an independent study, would hemorrhage money -- about $10 million a year.

But Bay to Beach Civic Organization, which is suing FEMA for approving the plan, did its own math and presented its findings to a crowd of more than 50 residents who gathered for a meeting Monday night at the Long Beach Public Library. Bay to Beach board member Ed Glister says the hospital stands to actually make a profit of about $1.5 million annually.

Hospital officials will hold their own public meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, also at the city library.

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