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October 03, 2012

Hospital, College To Collaborate . . . And Construct?



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They said, a few years ago when the campus faced closure, that the health of Southampton Town was inextricably linked to the college's continued operation. If plans announced Monday morning come to fruition, the health of East Enders will be linked to the campus . . . literally.

Officials from Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook Medicine gathered with local lawmakers to herald a non-binding letter of intent had been signed by the leadership at Stony Brook University, State University of New York and Southampton Hospital, crafting a collaboration between Stony Brook and Southampton that could mean a new 125-bed facility constructed on the 85-acre campus.

And that could mean increased educational opportunities for students and better healthcare accessibility for area residents.

"Construction of a new state-of-the-art healthcare facility on the Southampton campus would be another building block in the revitalization of the campus,""Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who's been at the forefront of efforts to ensure the campus' continued viability, said. "Together with a growing Arts program, the new $10 million Marine Sciences facility, and the establishment of the Peconic Institute, a new hospital would be a major step towards having the Southampton campus reach its educational potential."

A new hospital on the campus "has the potential to provide a tremendous learning environment for students in the health sciences," Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of Stony Brook University School of Medicine added. SBU president Dr. Samuel Stanley, Jr. agreed: "This proposal would enable Stony Brook University to expand its education programs on the Southampton campus, helping us to fulfill our mission to train the next generation of healthcare providers across Long Island. Southampton Hospital can provide a valuable teaching and research environment for Stony Brook University students, contributing highly trained healthcare professionals to meet the East End's needs as the population grows and ages."

Like Thiele, Congressman Tim Bishop, a longtime administrator on the Southampton campus, has fought for the continuation of the college at the eastern site. He expressed excitement at the prospect of a new hospital that will not just enhance the Stony Brook-Southampton academic mission, but also "launch Southampton Hospital's second century of healthcare excellence."

In addition to ratcheting up educational opportunities, the affiliation will provide, according to Southampton Hospital President and CEO Robert S. Chaloner, "a fantastic opportunity to bring together the intimacy and accessibility of a high quality community hospital with the specialized clinical resources and educational programs of an academic medical center."

Under the terms of the letter, Southampton Hospital will work under Stony Brook University Hospital's state license. The two entities will comply with respective public and private sector collective bargaining agreements.

With a little over 1,000 employees, Southampton Hospital is the largest employer on the South Fork. A not-for-profit organization, it boasts a medical staff comprised of more than 240 physicians, dentists and allied health professionals. Stony Brook University Hospital is a New York State educational corporation with more than 1,000 full-time medical school faculty and affiliated credentialed physicians and over 5500 staff employees.

Located in the hamlet of the same name, Stony Brook University Hospital is Suffolk County's largest hospital. It has 597 beds and includes the county's only Level I Trauma Center, Burn Center, Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, and Bone Marrow Transplant program, amongst other unique services, and the county's busiest Emergency Department, with nearly 100,000 visits annually.

Stony Brook Medicine integrates all of SBU's health-related initiatives in education, research and patient care. It includes five Health Sciences schools – Dental Medicine, Health Technology, Clinical Services and Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Welfare.

The letter of intent calls for the continuation of Southampton Hospital's clinical services, and the creation of a joint advisory committee, with members appointed by both entities, to advise on strategic and community issues for the facility.

As for the new hospital? So far, it's too early to say how much building a medical facility on the campus would cost. What is known is that Southampton Hospital will have to launch the campaign to raise the dough from private donors. The current hospital has 125 beds and opened in 1909. The new facility would replace the Meeting House Lane hospital.

According to a joint release from Stony Brook and Southampton Hospital, the next step in the process entails the exchange of financial, business and legal information. Several state regulatory and legislative authorities, as well as the hospital board of trustees, will have to sign off on the final agreement.

Said Stanley, "Stony Brook University and Southampton Hospital enjoy a longstanding relationship and partnership in providing healthcare services for the East End of Long Island. This proposal represents an unparalleled opportunity to build on our collaboration to provide care in ways that are even more complementary, efficient and effective."

Senator Ken LaValle, chair of the state senate higher education committee, has also been a stalwart supporter of keeping the Southampton campus robust. He said Monday, "My vision for healthcare in our region has always centered on creating a synergy between Stony Brook Medicine and our community hospitals that will improve access to quality, affordable healthcare, especially here on the East End. Today we're taking another step toward greater collaboration and cooperation. Throughout this challenging process I have never lost sight of the goal to provide the best possible healthcare for the people we serve."

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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