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Aug 30, 2011 4:17 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Stony Brook Southampton Lawsuit Settlement Paves Way For Possible Talks On Hospital Move

Sep 6, 2011 3:24 PM

August’s settlement that ended a lawsuit over the termination of Stony Brook Southampton’s environmental sustainability programs has cleared the way for deeper discussions about a possible relocation of Southampton Hospital to the campus in Shinnecock Hills.

The idea, proponents say, presents a unique opportunity to further pair two major East End institutions in a way that would benefit the community. By tapping into the college’s wealth of environmental knowledge, a modern and more environmental hospital could be constructed. The hospital, in turn, could provide teaching opportunities in the health care field and possibly bring more students back to the 82-acre campus. The hospital and college could share the cost of certain infrastructure elements.

Advocates also say the move could possibly secure the site’s future as a public institution, in part by allowing the college and hospital to work together in a tough economic climate.

Although Stony Brook University and Southampton Hospital officials have been tossing the idea around for several months, the litigation between a handful of students and the university kept a damper on talks, noted Robert S. Chaloner, president and CEO of the hospital, which has been eyeing a new site for an upgraded facility for several years. He said last week that he expects more formal, detailed discussions to get under way in the fall.

University officials referred comment to spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow, who did not respond to an emailed list of questions before deadline.

“I think if you go around the country and look at hospitals and colleges, they often sit next to each other, and there’s good reasons for that,” Mr. Chaloner explained last week.

One of those benefits, he said, would be sharing the cost of building and maintaining certain infrastructure, such as a sewage treatment facility or generators. Another would be programming.

“Hospitals are teaching facilities where we train the next generation of health care workers,” he said, adding that the hospital, which already has a partnership with Stony Brook University Medical Center, regularly partners with different educational institutions, providing the hands-on training, while students gain their academic experience in the universities.

Though he said he has not yet discussed with the university whether it wants to expand its health care training, he observed that there is a “tremendous shortage” of health care workers in many fields, such as laboratory tech, pharmacy, physical therapy and nursing. Teaming up with the college to provide training in certain health care fields could draw students back to the college.

The loss of the environmental sustainability programs last year—a decision blamed on significant state budget cuts—drove hundreds of students off the campus.

Conference rooms and dormitories, which have been shuttered at Stony Brook Southampton since last year, could be shared by both sides, Mr. Chaloner observed. “Our busy time is the summer season,” he said of the hospital, “and theirs is the academic school year, so we kind of mesh nicely on that too.” The hospital could fill the dormitories with summer and seasonal staffers during a time of year when they’re usually unused, he said.

Southampton Hospital’s current building on Meeting House Lane in Southampton Village is more than a century old and, according to Mr. Chaloner, is poorly insulated, has inefficient boilers, and burns much more fuel than it would in a more modern building—although he was quick to point out that the hospital does enjoy a partnership agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing the hospital’s carbon footprint. It would also be difficult to retrofit the aging building with the latest medical technology, he said.

Meanwhile, the CEO envisions tapping into the green expertise of the college to build a new, green hospital—one possibly topped with a living, green roof.

“They know a lot about sustainability, and they’ve got experts over there that we don’t have, Mr. Chaloner said of Stony Brook. “I even see us becoming a bit of a learning laboratory in the design of that.”

The two sides have had preliminary talks about possible sizing plans. Mr. Chaloner noted that plans originally drafted in 2007 and 2008, when the hospital considered moving to a site owned by the Southampton Elks Lodge on County Road 39, are now coming back into play. At the time, the hospital did a department-by-department look at sizing needs and growth projections.

While the economy largely halted those plans, the Elks Lodge has not been ruled out as a new site. Its single-point access—from the bustling County Road 39—however, is a major drawback, he said. The college site, which offers access from both County Road 39 and Montauk Highway, likely would be preferable.

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Pie in the sky.

The hospital would not be a good addition to the college campus. Hospitals attract a lot of traffic. Huge parking lots. Sirens. Emergency vehicles. A lot a patients from all walks of life. That campus isn't that large. It would be turned pretty urban by adding a hospital.

Besides, there are no college students there now, so ... what college are we talking about? First get a few thousand students, and THEN talk about a med campus.

Put it at the Elks Lodge ...more
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 2, 11 11:03 PM
3 members liked this comment
"The loss of the environmental sustainability programs last year—a decision blamed on significant state budget cuts—drove hundreds of students off the campus." But now they suddenly can afford to have students there for hospital programs? There wasnt money to run the thriving environmental programs but theres money to run healthcare programs? Seems to me it wasnt the students they wanted to get rid of - it was the program.
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 4, 11 2:42 AM
what I dont get is the frequent references to the campus' environmental knowledge & expertise. Didnt anybody tell Chaloner that all this valuable expertise was kicked off that camus last year? It is really that these administrators honestly dont see the contradiction of their comments in view of the events there over the past year, or is it just sheer audacity that they keep pointing out the importance of environmental focus at that campus after theyve killed off everything that had to do with ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 4, 11 2:37 AM
Not to mention SUNY Stony Brook @ Songdo, Korea, opening March 2012
By Hamptons Seashell (34), Southampton on Sep 4, 11 3:18 PM
This is all a wild fantasy.
By Zorro (66), Southampton on Sep 7, 11 11:12 PM