Workers Sue Sandy-Devastated Hospital as Bankruptcy Looms

Long Beach Medical Center has been closed since last year, leaving hundreds of its employees without jobs

A struggling Long Island hospital devastated by Sandy will file for bankruptcy, according to a state assemblyman who has been briefed by state and hospital officials.

Long Beach Medical Center has been closed since last year, leaving hundreds of its employees without jobs when there was no hospital to run.

"The reality is, the hospital as it stood will not be the same," said Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg.

Weisenberg says the bankruptcy will pave the way for a possible merger with South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. But what will be left on Long Beach is still uncertain, according to Weisenberg.

"I think they have been very disrespectful to all the employees," said Maggie Pawlowski, who worked at Long Beach Medical Center for 26 years as a nurse. "They kept saying they were trying to open, and I believed them."

Pawlowski was let go right after Sandy, but she says she waited to collect her accrued vacation, holiday and sick days because she thought the hospital would reopen. But now with news of the bankruptcy, she and her colleagues wonder if they'll ever see the money.

Elaine Peck, a cardiac floor nurse of 29 years says she has more than 500 vacation hours banked, worth an estimated $19,000.

A group of hospital workers has banded together to sue Long Beach Medical Center for money they say is owed to them. Michael Berman, their attorney, filed a civil suit in New York State Supreme Court in Mineola Monday.

"For some of these employees, they didn't take a vacation for 30 or 40 years. They didn't spend time with their families," said Berman. "And after decades of not doing that, they're not getting paid for it. And if you ask me, it's salt on the wound."

A spokeswoman for Long Beach Medical Center says it cannot comment on the merger because of a non-disclosure agreement with the state. But the spokeswoman said it is unclear when former workers will be repaid because of the complexity of the merger.

"We simply have no funds to pay them with," said spokeswoman Sharon Player.

Meanwhile the hospital, which used to employ 1,200 workers, is now down to 430. More than half work in the nursing home and the rest support the Mental Health Clinic and Family Care Center. Administrators have also kept their jobs, some of whom make more than $200,000 a year.

Player said operating costs are covered by the nursing home and other programs that are still up and running.

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