Suburban NY hospital struggles to open after Sandy

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (AP) — Officials at the last hospital still closed because of damage from Superstorm Sandy are no longer predicting when they will be able to reopen.

The Long Beach Medical Center, located on a waterfront channel just east of New York City, suffered heavy flooding damage in the October storm, requiring at least $56 million in repairs, hospital officials said.

The closing has idled hundreds of workers at the 162-bed facility and forced ambulances to take emergency patients longer distances to hospitals in nearby Oceanside and East Meadow.

Hospital officials had hoped to reopen by mid-April, but they said this week that an unanticipated overhaul of the building’s sprinkler and alarm systems delayed the return. Officials are no longer saying when the privately run hospital will open.

Some services are being offered offsite, including at a family care clinic. Also an adjoining nursing home that was not as severely damaged reopened earlier this year.

“This is all electrical work, things we didn’t anticipate,” said Mark Healey, the hospital’s director of facilities and engineering who says people on the street constantly stop to ask him about progress in making repairs. “We are going to end up with a more modern and safe system but it’s a lot of work.”

A spokesman for the City of Long Beach declined to comment on the still-closed hospital.

Healey said the hospital’s basement was flooded in the storm, requiring officials to move the pharmacy to the third floor. He said an inspection by the fire marshal’s office in March determined that the building’s entire sprinkler system would have to be replaced because of concerns that salt water may have compromised pipes. He said that work is nearly completed.

Healey, who rode out the storm inside the hospital with a small crew of workers, also noted that the closure of the building provided an opportunity for the entire interior of the facility to be repainted.

Long Beach Medical Center spokeswoman Sharon Player said 600 of the hospital’s approximately 1,200 employees are still not back to work.

The next-closest hospital to Long Beach is about seven miles away in Oceanside. Officials at South Nassau Communities Hospital said they have seen a spike in patients since the closure.

Several other New York area hospitals, including Bellevue Hospital, NYU Medical Center and Coney Island Hospital were closed from damage from Sandy, but all have since reopened.

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