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Jan 13, 2015 4:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

SUNY Board Unanimously Approves Stony Brook, Southampton Hospital Affiliation

Jan 13, 2015 4:51 PM

After months of delays, the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York on Tuesday unanimously approved a long-awaited affiliation between Southampton and Stony Brook University hospitals, a partnership that should eventually result in the construction of a new Southampton Hospital on the Stony Brook campus in Shinnecock Hills.

The deal also means the creation of a larger health care system here on the East End that is expected not only to create more jobs and make more physicians available for patients, but also to expand medical field-based education at Stony Brook’s eastern Long Island campus by providing more opportunities for new graduate-level programs that allow students there to work hands-on in a community hospital.

While Tuesday’s vote was a big step in the right direction for the partnership, Southampton Hospital now has to apply for a certificate of need from the State Department of Health, and other state agencies, including the offices of the attorney general and the state comptroller, have to approve the affiliation as well. State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, a key player in getting this all to happen, said in a phone interview from Albany on Tuesday that he expects those approvals to come in by June.

The agreement was approved by SUNY’s 18-member board on the conditions that neither hospital request funding from SUNY or New York State for capital improvements, that Stony Brook establish cash reserves to cover all liabilities at Southampton, and that Stony Brook develop a comprehensive implementation plan for integrating the two institutions.

Officials from both Southampton and Stony Brook said on Tuesday that the integration plan process has begun, but that SUNY’s vote has given them the official green light to finish it up. The two institutions already had a tentative agreement in place.

“We come into this now with a very good understanding of how both organizations work,” said Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak, Stony Brook University Hospital’s chief executive officer, adding that the plan can now outline how to align both hospitals’ operations, information and finance systems, and clinical practices. “This now gives us the opportunity to get down to the specifics.”

Talks of a partnership between the two institutions began back in 2010, although an official announcement wasn’t made until 2012. Back then, the agreement was expected to be approved and finalized by the end of 2013, but SUNY officials hesitated to move quickly because of a failed acquisition of the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn by SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 2011. That acquisition lost both entities significant amounts of money—hundreds of millions of dollars, in SUNY’s case—and eventually resulted in a lawsuit after SUNY decided to close the Brooklyn hospital.

However, on Tuesday, after the SUNY board cast its vote, trustee Eunice A. Lewin said she finally felt optimistic about approving the deal.

“At the very beginning of the affiliation discussion, I was very concerned,” Ms. Lewin said, adding that when she visited Southampton Hospital for the first time last year, she was “pleasantly surprised.” “I believe this affiliation will strengthen both institutions. I am pleased to move the resolution forward.”

Hospital officials, Mr. LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. had all expressed frustration about the rate at which the SUNY board moved in approving the partnership. On Tuesday, also in a phone call from Albany, Mr. Thiele described the work as “a full-time job” in itself, adding that Mr. LaValle spent countless hours to ensure that the deal did not fall through.

The lawmakers both said that they were encouraged by the opportunities the affiliation would bring to the South Fork in terms of health care, the local economy and education in the medical field.

“This is like waving a wand. You’ll be seeing a development of medical parks and more physicians,” Mr. LaValle said. “It will be a job creator, bringing specialized medical care to the area.”

“The East End has always been described as a medically under-served area,” Mr. Thiele said. “Health care is a big part of the economy. This is going to mean jobs.”

For Southampton, operating under Stony Brook could mean access to not only more physicians and programs, but also to state funding, as Stony Brook is operated by SUNY, a state entity. “It’s all about providing better health care for our community,” said Robert S. Chaloner, the president and chief executive officer of Southampton Hospital. “The opportunities are huge.”

And for Stony Brook, which has been affiliated with Southampton since 2008 and has a few satellite practices out here on the South Fork already, the partnership means a bigger presence here, and possibly the creation of a network of hospitals. It also means the opportunity to expand programs at its campus in Shinnecock Hills, where the new Southampton Hospital would be. The new building is slated to cost $250 million to build, but would not be in the works for another few years.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, the dean of Stony Brook School of Medicine, said the affiliation is a tremendous opportunity to change the way medicine is taught. Rather than students only having experience in a university hospital setting, their pool of learning will be expanded, as they can work with patients of a slightly different demographic out here in Southampton.

“I know that if we’re going to provide outstanding physicians, we need to train them not only in a place like Stony Brook University Hospital, but they need to be out there in the community,” he said. “This gives us, as medical educators, a great opportunity to diversify the training opportunities of our medical students and residents.”

While the approval is a great first step towards finalizing the partnership, officials said, that there is still much more to do to fully integrate the two institutions.

“We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the synergies,” Mr. Chaloner said. “To me, we’ve created a future now. And now it’s up to us to see what we do with it.”

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Great news!
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Jan 12, 15 1:03 PM
Bravo! This will help bring SH Hospital into the 21st Century and, hopefully, a medical affiliation with the university in Southampton, too. Well done, Bob Chaloner! You'll get a SH Press Gold Star for your good work and sincere thanks from our community, too. As GE used to say, you "Bring Good Things to Life". Thank you.
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Jan 12, 15 1:22 PM
This is wonderful news for the East End!!
By nauti lady (25), Sag Harbor on Jan 12, 15 1:34 PM
Hoping this goes well and the devil isn't in the details.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on Jan 12, 15 2:06 PM
I agree with you. On the surface this appears to look good. But unfortunately, healthcare is big business. It manages money, not the well being of the community. This has been shown with other mergers across the country and especially here on Long Island. I am skeptical but it appears we have no choice in the matter. We can only hope for the best.
By Long Island Viking (28), Southampton on Jan 16, 15 11:02 AM
Long overdue. Let's hope it gets done.
By Ibill (47), remsenburg on Jan 12, 15 2:24 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By btdt (449), water mill on Jan 12, 15 2:34 PM
ten years overdue
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Jan 12, 15 3:15 PM
Yes this does seem like good news. Perhaps a step toward abandoning their aging facility and moving into a new one on the SUNY Southampton campus. I also understand that the Stony Brook system has stiffer academic requirements for some staff and administration. It will be interesting to see how this will be handled. Will staff and administration that don't meet SUNY SB's requirements be grandfathered in, given a grace period to upgrade their skills or asked to move on. I would hope that anyone who ...more
By bird (829), Southampton on Jan 12, 15 4:13 PM
ANYTHING and I mean ANYTHING that can improve that facility is long overdue. My family's care there over the years has been in a word FRIGHTING. I can never understand how the only major hospital serving, what many think are, Zipcodes that are among the " Tonenss" in the country continues to exist just above bankruptcy. It can only be a testament to the sad state of the communities they serve and over healthcare system.
By Father of 4 (4), Hampton Bays on Jan 12, 15 7:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
If you live in Hampton Bays and are so unhappy with Southampton, why don't you take your family to Peconic in Riverhead?
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Jan 13, 15 11:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well Peconic is a better hospital,so good suggestion Mrs. Sea.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jan 13, 15 2:59 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Father of 4 (4), Hampton Bays on Jan 12, 15 8:00 PM
my experience as a patient in Southampton Hospital has always been top notch. My doctors are wonderful, the care received there from the nursing staff is outstanding, and the food is terrific. I am very grateful our hospital is as wonderful as it is.
By Fabiola (11), Southampton on Jan 13, 15 2:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Let me get this straight. The East End is medically underserved -- yet Newsday claims that Stony Brook is going to close 25 beds of the 125 beds at Southampton Hospital because the hospital is "underutilized." And....Stony Brook is claiming it will build a $225M hospital on its Southampton Campus. Why? If the current hospital is underutilized and needs to close down 25 beds, why build a new one, which wil only hold 100 beds, yet cost $225M?
By btdt (449), water mill on Jan 13, 15 11:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
btdt of Water Mill: It seems you have a lot of questions and I would be happy to answer them all for you. Why don't you give me a call at 726-8276 or come and visit me and I will be happy to explain all this to you and answer your numerous questions. At least you will know the facts and might stop writing incorrect and misleading statements.

Robert I Ross
Vice President
Southampton Hospital
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Jan 14, 15 8:57 AM
3 members liked this comment
from my perspective it looks like he is asking very reasonable questions.
fantastic that you are ready & willing to answer ..

sounds like a story!
boy is wish THIS Publication would call you AND WRITE IT !
By david h (405), southampton on Jan 16, 15 8:16 AM
Do we really need to spend 250 million for a hospital? The cost of health care is skyrocketing double digits every year with no controls. Personally my medical has more than tripled since Obama care has been implemented.
This is a nice little scheme where Southampton merges with Stony Brook, and the state foots the bill of a huge hospital at the old Southampton campus. We need to get expenses under control not some egotistical building to raise costs even more. Sure Mr Ross tell us the financial ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 15, 15 8:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
Great news! The fact of the matter is that none of the funding will come from NY State. With a large part of the hospital facilities dating back to the 1930s - the singular hospital serving the entire South Fork of Long Island deserves to be updated and we deserve to receive care from a top-notch medical center. Thanks to the hospital administration for seeing this through. The positive impact will be felt for generations.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Jan 15, 15 2:02 PM