The Long Beach Emergency Department will resume 24-hour service Friday after closing for more than three days because of a shortage of vaccinated nurses, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.
The deal with Mount Sinai South Nassau, which operates the barrier island’s only stand-alone emergency room, means an additional eight to 10 vaccinated nurses are on the way to avert a potential monthlong shutdown.
In a statement, Hochul said the state health department will monitor the emergency department to keep it open.
“I will ensure the state does everything we can to alleviate the stress on hospitals and emergency care facilities — so health care facilities, please continue to alert us when you are struggling,” Hochul said. “I want to thank Mount Sinai South Nassau and local community partners for working with us to restore ER services and continue providing high quality care to the residents of Nassau County. The Department of Health will keep working closely with hospital and local officials to monitor and troubleshoot any future potential staff shortage issues.”
The Bay Drive emergency room is set to reopen at 7 a.m. Friday as local officials continue working with the state Department of Health to add additional staff.
Dr. Ahni Sharma, president of Mount Sinai South Nassau, said the state worked with the hospital to address the staffing shortage.
“We are great full for the support we received from so many individuals to make this happen and reopen for our community,” Sharma said.
State and local leaders and Mount Sinai South Nassau pushed to reopen the emergency room and asked the nursing unions to agree to additional staffing, said state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).
“The important truth that our barrier island cannot afford to have this vital community asset shuttered meant that all parties had to come together to solve this issue and put residents first,” Kaminsky said.
The emergency room requires two nurses on duty per shift, according to Kaminsky.
“This was not just a minor inconvenience, it is a major health issue for the barrier island. The residents here fought very hard to get a full-time ER and families were very scared and deserve to have emergency services in our community,” Kaminsky said. “This was not something that was going to blow over in a few weeks.”
Mount Sinai South Nassau officials announced Monday that they were closing the emergency department for several weeks because of the shortage of vaccinated nurses. The state mandate requires that all nursing staff have 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 denied their request for an extension of the vaccine mandate so the hospital was working to hire additional nurses to arrive in Long Beach during the next two weeks.
About 99% of South Nassau’s 3,500 staff members are vaccinated, but they still face a nursing shortage, officials said. The hospital system fired about 10 employees last month who refused to get vaccinated and reviewed about 100 applications for exemptions, though none were granted.
The hospital’s main campus in Oceanside needed between eight to 10 emergency room nurses. The vaccinated nurses at the Long Beach emergency room were then transferred to Oceanside.
Residents on the barrier island, including Point Lookout, Lido Beach and Atlantic Beach, were directed to travel 20 minutes over the Long Beach bridge to Oceanside for emergency service. The hospital did keep an ambulance at the closed Long Beach facility in case of emergencies.
Elected leaders and residents rallied against the closure of the emergency room, which serves about 10,000 patients annually
State representatives including Kaminsky, Assemb. Missy Miller (R-Atlantic Beach), Hempstead Town officials and Long Beach city officials urged the governor’s office to send additional staff to reopen the emergency room. Hempstead officials sent Hochul a letter Wednesday citing increased response times for medics as COVID-19 cases will likely increase during flu season.
“The now shuttered emergency room served residents residing across all corners of the barrier island,” said a letter to Hochul sent by Hempstead Town officials. “The well-being of thousands of New Yorkers is at stake and we ask for your immediate attention to this issue.”
After Thursday’s announcement, Long Beach City Council President John Bendo praised the efforts that led to the emergency room’s reopening.
“We thank Gov. Hochul and all our other elected officials for recognizing the urgency of the moment and the absolute need to have 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 citizenry resulted in the full restoration of these services. Today, we have much to be thankful for.”
Miller said the closure had put patients at risk.
“I am grateful that Mount Sinai, the NYS DOH and Gov. Hochul heard our pleas and worked to find a solution to reopen this very much needed facility,” Miller said in a statement.