The state’s ban on ambulances dropping off patients at Long Island College Hospital’s Cobble Hill emergency room could lead to the unnecessary death of residents who now have to be rushed extra miles for urgent care, hospital advocates claim.
Right now, walk-ins at the medical institution’s still-open emergency room receive care almost immediately — but those that have to be shipped miles away to other hospital’s quick care facilities are spending precious minutes in transit instead of getting the help they need just a stone’s throw away, and that has some neighbors worried for their lives.
“Everyone here is in danger,” said Josephine Musarella, who lives four blocks away from the Cobble Hill hospital.
Musarella’s family recently called an ambulance after she choked on a piece of watermelon, worried that Musarella, a diabetic, was having a seizure. The drivers that picked her up had to drive 20 minutes away to get her to New York Methodist Hospital, now the nearest that would admit her.
“If I was having a heart attack, it would have taken three minutes for me to die,” said Musarella, who is 58.
Musarella didn’t have to wait long to be seen at Methodist. But some nurses say that this case is far from the norm.
“Other ERs are just completely insane,” said Eliza Bates, a spokeswoman for the New York State Nurses Association, which has members in hospitals across Brooklyn. “I’ve heard stories about patients waiting out the door.”
In the meantime, Long Island College Hospital’s emergency room is open for business to those least likely to get there — those that can walk.
Patients who can get to the veritable ghost town Long Island College Hospital’s emergency room has become since the state banned ambulance drop-offs there, claiming that the facility has been understaffed since the State University of New York first tried to close the cash-strapped institution back in February, are getting the kind of treatment that’s unthinkable in the overworked emergency rooms of Brooklyn — immediate care.
That has staffers there wondering why ambulances can’t pull up.
“I don’t understand what the diversion is about,”said Julie Semente, a nurse in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Still, only a handful of patients have been admitted to the hospital’s mostly empty beds, Semente said, and only after a fight.
“Those patients were admitted because their physician went to battle to get them admitted,” she said. “Physicians should not have to be screaming and fighting to get their patients admitted.”
The state says the hospital rarely admits new patients because it is understaffed thanks to a recent rash of resignations.
“There have been dozens of resignations of staff attending physicians just this year,” said Robert Bellafiore, a spokesman for the state university.
Semente claims the ambulance diversion is also causing back-ups at nearby emergency rooms.
“There’s a domino effect,” she said. “Even if you don’t go to LICH, what’s going on at LICH is going to affect you in your own neighborhood as your own hospital gets more overcrowded.”
A spokeswoman for New York Methodist Hospital confirmed a rise in the number of patients showing up in the Park Slope hospital’s emergency room.
“We are seeing about a 10 percent increase in volume,” said Lyn Hill, who wouldn’t say if the volume spike had affected waiting times.Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.