Written by Cynthia Paulis Friday, 06 September 2013 00:00
It was standing room only at the Village Trustee’s Meeting of Massapequa Park last week with many residents concerned about the possibility of bringing a free standing 20-room emergency center run by North Shore LIJ to be located at the Lexus Dealership on Sunrise Highway.
The Friday before the Village meeting, the neighborhood was flooded with fliers in homeowner’s mailboxes. The eight point bulletin listed negative impacts an emergency room would have on the community including, traffic through residential neighborhoods including a number of streets where there are school bus stops, and implying that there will be “drug abusers, drug seekers, emotionally disturbed and potentially violent persons because the emergency room cannot deny anyone treatment.”
Mayor Jeffrey Pravato opened the meeting stating that there would be transparency with any plans of this free standing emergency room and nothing has been decided, in fact it could be five years before this even comes to fruition.
“This is a very transparent board,” said Pravato, warning residents against buying into the sensationalistic information on the fliers. “There will be a complete review of the facility and it will be presented correctly.”
The mayor opened up the floor to discussion and residents expressed a series of concerns.
The two sides were clearly divided with one group concerned that property values would go down, drug dealers would move into the neighborhood, crime would go up and traffic congestion on Sunrise Highway would increase. One of the speakers against the emergency facility was a nurse from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage, who said the project was merely a money-making scheme for North Shore LIJ.
Another opponent was non resident Dr. Larry Kessler who runs three for profit urgent care centers, one located in Massapequa Park handling minor outpatient problems and is staffed by doctors and also physician assistants. His concern was that this emergency room would be a triage center to bring patients to LIJ.
On the pro side were other community members, one of them being a retired police officer who was injured in the line of duty. He said that if he should suffer a heart attack while mowing his lawn, he would rather be transported four minutes in Massapequa Park rather than 15 minutes somewhere else. Other community members discussed how there were two local hospitals in our community, Massapequa General Hospital, which closed in 2000 and Brunswick Hospital in Amityville, which now only functions as a behavioral health and wellness center. They discussed the importance of having health care closer, especially since Massapequa is a growing community with many elderly people who will require emergency care.
Village attorney Kevin Walsh asked for a show of hands to see how many people were opposed to having an emergency center verses those who were opposed to having a health care center close to their home. There seemed to be some consensus that the community would not be opposed to this center as long as it was situated in an industrial setting rather than on Sunrise Highway. A
After the meeting Pravato said he has spoken with police and fire officials and the both departments are in favor of an emergency facility in the area.
“It’s about time. It’s about saving lives,” he said. “In cases of strokes, heart attacks, trauma, a massive accident on Sunrise Highway; time matters. To go to another hospital, you have to travel 15 or 20 minutes. This would provide a state-of-the-art treatment center and it could save many lives.”
LIJ will still need to secure land and once that happens they will have to submit their proposal to the board. Meanwhile, the mayor promised many more open hearings on this subject.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there. Nothing is set in stone,” he said. “You’ve heard the rumors, now wait to see the facts.”
— With additional reporting by Steve Mosco