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Southampton Hospital’s merger with Stony Brook complete, officials celebrate ‘new era’ in East End health care

Officials gather outside Stony Brook Southampton Hospital where a new sign was unveiled yesterday. Courtesy photo: Stony Brook Medicine

Southampton Hospital in now officially Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.

The state health department deemed the merger of Southampton into Stony Brook University Hospital complete on Aug. 1, nearly two years after the two hospitals formally applied to the state health department for approval to merge. It marks the conclusion of a process begun nearly five years ago, when hospital officials announced their merger plans in September 2012.

Hospital, university and government officials gathered yesterday on the Stony Brook Southampton campus to celebrate “a new vision for East End medicine” and commemorate Southampton “joining the Stony Brook Medicine healthcare system.”

“Today signifies a bold step forward in realizing a new vision for bringing advanced medical care closer to home for residents of the East End of Long Island,” Stony Brook University president Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. said.

Hospital officials raised a new flag and unveiled a new sign over the hospital entrance, “to symbolically signify the start of a new era,” Stanley said. “Today we stand at an intersection where academic medicine and community medicine come together as one.”

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital now provides care under Stony Brook University Hospital’s New York State operating license.

“We are creating a new network of healthcare providers that spans from Montauk to Manhattan and beyond,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “Bringing these two institutions together provides new opportunities to train our providers in a community-based setting — in the ‘real world’ outside the boundaries of academia,” Kaushansky said.

The two hospitals have already successfully collaborated in bringing many new educational and clinical programs to the community, Stony Brook Medicine said in a press release.

The two hospitals have obtained approval for a cardiac catheterization laboratory located in Southampton, which is slated to open on Sept. 5, according to Stony Brook. Earlier this summer, a groundbreaking took place at the site of the future Phillips Family Cancer Center in Southampton, which is expected to be complete in late 2018, the hospital said.

Stony Brook Medicine graduate medical education programs have also been introduced at Southampton — including internship and residency programs for internal medicine and family medicine, plus osteopathic medicine programs in surgery and transitional year resident programs. Additional rotations are planned for Emergency Medicine students and residents, the hospital said.

Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, State Sen. Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone and Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving, as well as members of the SUNY board of trustees.

Sen. Ken LaValle, a champion of a Stony Brook-based healthcare network for Suffolk County, praised hospital leadership for completing the merger.

“Today marks the true beginning of a major step forward in building on the excellent healthcare programs in Southampton,” LaValle said. “The combination of Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University Hospital will ensure that residents have access to specialists and vital services close to home. I commend Bob Chaloner and the Southampton Hospital Board on working towards this goal and their continued commitment to ensuring access to vital medical services right here in the community.”

LaValle pressed for Peconic Bay Medical Center and Eastern Long Island Hospital to become part of a Stony Brook-led hospital network. He advocated Stony Brook University Hospital as a regional hub for health care in Suffolk County, with various community hospitals operating under its banner. That was a recommendation of the NYS Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century — commonly known as the Berger Commission — in its 2006 final report.

But Peconic Bay opted to merge with Northwell Health instead; it became part of the Northwell system in January 2016. PBMC’s decision angered the state senator

Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport chose Stony Brook, a decision ELIH announced in July 2015. Its application to become part of the Stony Brook system, submitted in May 2016 after the SUNY trustees approved the affiliation agreement, was granted conditional approval by the state health department in December. The affiliation is expected to be completed before the end of this year.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson last month announced it had entered a letter of intent to join the Northwell Health system.

If ELIH and Mather complete their mergers with Stony Brook and Northwell, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in East Patchogue will be the only independent community hospital remaining in Suffolk County. Huntington Hospital, Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and South Oaks Hospital in Amityville are already part of Northwell’s system. The other hospitals in Suffolk — St. Catherine of Sienna in Smithtown, Good Samaritan in West Islip and St. Charles in Port Jefferson — are all members of Catholic Health Services of Long Island.

Independent hospitals face operational hardships due to rising health care costs and disadvantages in bargaining with large health insurance companies, resulting in a trend of mergers and consolidations in the industry over the last decade.