Hospital officials: Long Beach Emergency Care Facility to close due to vaccine-related staff shortages
Hospital officials say the Long Beach Emergency Care Facility operated by Mount Sinai South Nassau will be closed temporarily due to nursing staff shortages occurring as a result of the state vaccine mandate.
They say the vaccine mandate requires the suspension of all staff who could not show proof of their first dose by Monday.
Hospital officials say patients from the area in need of emergency care will be directed to the hospital's main campus in Oceanside, which is five miles away.
Mount Sinai South Nassau President Dr. Adhi Sharma says the hospital was notified last week by the state that employees who are requesting or were granted a religious exemption could no longer work on-site. He says the hospital lost eight nurses due to the mandate, which was enough to shut down the facility
"We exhausted all options before making this decision," Sharma says.
An ambulance will be stationed around the clock at the closed Long Beach Emergency Department for the duration of the closure to bring people to Oceanside. The city of Long Beach also says it will have its own ambulances on standby if needed.
The New York state Department of Health was notified of the need to close the free-standing emergency department on Friday and granted verbal approval. Mount Sinai South Nassau has submitted a formal closure plan to the Department of Health.
The closure will continue for up to four weeks and could be extended depending on staff availability. The remaining employees at the Long Beach facility will be transferred to the Oceanside campus.
Residents and city leaders say the news was frustrating particularly because it was sudden and unexpected.
"God forbid something happens--how are we going to get to a hospital?" says Long Beach resident Monic Ficalora.
Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Miller, who lives in Atlantic Beach, says the state should do everything it can to keep the facility open because it's the only emergency room on the barrier island.
"Why wasn't their response 'don't close a facility, we can provide the National Guard,'" Miller says. '"We'll pull in staff from out-of-state, whatever."
Officials say more than 99% of Mount Sinai South Nassau's staff are fully vaccinated, not counting those who sought religious or medical exemptions.
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently laid out contingency plans for these types of situations.
"I will be signing an executive order to give me the emergency powers necessary to address these shortages where they occur that's going to allow me to deploy the National Guard who are medically trained, deploy people who are retired, that may have had a license lapse, bring in people from elsewhere," Hochul said.
Dr. Sharma says they have not been contacted by the state regarding any opportunities to receive assistance.
A spokesperson for the governor's office says, "the Department of Health is actively engaging Mount Sinai South Nassau to explore options."
The hospital says it is actively recruiting experienced and qualified staff who can document either a first dose COVID-19 vaccination or a valid medical exemption so that it can resume full operations of the Long Beach Emergency Department on or around Dec. 15.