By Kathryn G. Menu
Flanked by government leaders at a Monday morning press conference, officials from Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University Medical Center lauded plans for an affiliation between the them. It’s the beginning of what both facilities hope will become a regional healthcare system for the East End of Long Island.
At the press conference, leadership from Stony Brook University, the State University of New York and Southampton Hospital announced they have signed a non-binding letter of intent in which Southampton Hospital will join Stony Brook University’s medical system and construct a new hospital building on the Stony Brook University Southampton campus.
For Robert Chaloner, the CEO of Southampton Hospital, the opportunities presented in an affiliation with Stony Brook will allow the hospital to grow in a positive direction.
“It’s hard for me to walk anywhere in this community without hearing the role the hospital plays,” said Chaloner. “We are the largest employer, we are an economic engine for the community, we are the organizing force for keeping doctors here in the community and we are the developer of services. And many people, especially as you go further east into East Hampton communities and out to Montauk, are frightened at the fact that we may move or any change we have made because we are an isolated community that is aging in its demographic.”
“We need to partner as we move forward,” said Chaloner, “because when all is said and done we are still a small community hospital entering an era of unprecedented change in health care and an era where hospitals of all sizes will be stressed and challenged.”
“We need a partner we can work with to ensure the long term survival of this organization,” he added. “And I can’t think of a better partner than Stony Brook University Medical Center.”
According to a press release issued the morning of the press conference, Southampton Hospital’s 125-bed facility would provide care under Stony Brook University Hospital’s New York State operating license. As the affiliation between the hospitals moves forward, Stony Brook and Southampton officials will comply with the collective bargaining agreements with public unions at Stony Brook University Hospital and the private sector unions at Southampton Hospital.
Southampton Hospital employees will maintain their status as private sector employees along with all of their collective bargaining rights, according to the release.
The letter of intent calls on Southampton Hospital to continue clinical services on the South Fork with a joint advisory committee made up of members appointed by both hospitals advising on strategic and community issues for the East End facility.
The letter of intent also calls for launching a Southampton Hospital led philanthropic campaign to raise funds to build a new state-of-the-art hospital on Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus. Southampton Hospital’s current facility on Meeting House Lane opened in 1909.
According to Congressman Tim Bishop — who joined New York State Senator Ken LaValle and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele at the press conference — this affiliation will lead to expanded educational opportunities for the hospitals and serve as an economic driver allowing the college campus to realize its potential.
“It is so important from so many different vantage points not the least of which is the educational opportunities which will give rise to the economic possibilities that will solidify that college and solidify the role we have always wanted it to play on eastern Long Island,” said Bishop, who has had four generations of his family born at Southampton Hospital and who also served as the provost for Southampton College when it was owned by Long Island University. “Let’s go forward and make this happen.”
Like Bishop, Thiele has roots in both the hospital and the college. Born at Southampton Hospital and a graduate of Southampton College, Thiele noted his life literally would not be what it is today without both institutions.
“And to see those things brought together and married together into something that is going to benefit so many people in this community is just something I couldn’t be more proud of,” said Thiele.
According to the terms in the letter of intent, the next step in the process is for the two hospitals to enter “a due diligence phase,” during which they will exchange business, financial and legal information. Final agreement would also require the approval of numerous New York State regulatory and legislative authorities as well as the Southampton Hospital Board of Trustees.
For LaValle, Monday morning’s press conference was the first step in realizing a 20-year dream. The concept of a regional healthcare system for the East End has been on LaValle’s mind for two-decades, since he passed a bill allowing loan deferral for medical students who agreed to work in a medically underserved area like the East End for as long as five years.
“That was the first recognition that the community I represented was medically underserved,” said LaValle.
He would later talk to former director and CEO of Stony Brook University Medical Center, Michael Maffetone about a vision where Stony Brook was the center of a regional healthcare system for the whole of the East End, including Southampton Hospital, the Peconic Bay Medical Center and Eastern Long Island Hospital.
“It is all about the delivery of quality care and as was mentioned not only will people be getting quality care but within the environment we are increasing job creation because what will happen is more doctors will come out here, open office and they have to hire people,” said LaValle. “It is a win-win.”
“Initiatives like this are going to help us provide better medical care to the people of the East End of Long Island,” said Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel Stanley. “And it is also going to help Stony Brook University fulfill its mission as an academic medical center to train the next generation of medical care providers.”
Stony Brook University Hospital’s new CEO and vice president for health systems Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak comes to Stony Brook from the Inova Health System in northern Virginia, which Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, the senior vice president of health sciences and the dean of Stony Brook University School of Medicine said has given Dr. Pasternak the tools necessary to help develop another successful health care system on the East End.
“This is truly a great day for the residents of eastern Suffolk County,” said Dr. Kaushansky. “It is a day that marks a new era in health care on Long Island — regional health care.”