The proposition of moving Southampton Hospital to the Stony Brook Southampton campus has been floated for a couple years, and with Sunday's announcement that the idea has made a huge leap toward fruition also comes news that the community hospital is forging a stronger bond with Stony Brook University Hospital.
Hospital officials and East End politicians lauded the move Monday morning at Southampton Hospital's Parrish Hall, explaining how the affiliation between the heath care facilities will provide better, more efficient care for South Fork residents.
"It was not so long ago that this was just something people talked about — just an idea that people thought made sense," said Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley, M.D. He credited the wisdom and foresight of elected officials who saw the potential.
"I think we're going to do great things together," Stanley added.
The proposed hospital is to be more than just a health care facility; it is to be an integral part of the campus and play a part in the Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., the dean of the School of Medicine, said that Southampton will be a wonderful training ground for new doctors on the forefront of academic medicine. “It really is the best that medicine has to offer.”
For patients, Dr. Kaushansky said they can expect vast improvements in care at Southampton Hospital, from the moment they walk in the door.
“Imagine how the care of the patient who comes to the Southampton emergency room with chest pain might be completely recreated by the partnership with Stony Brook Medicine," he said. Cardiac images will be instantaneously transmitted to Stony Brook and diagnosed, and depending on the severity of symptoms, patients may be treated right in Southampton or "whisked away to Stony Brook."
The same efficiency and access to top medical personnel will be true of stoke cases as well, he said. “This kind of medicine really is the future for regional health care.”
The CEO of Stony Brook University Hospital, Reuven Pasternak, M.D., said the new partnership will not only create something that's bigger — but "something that's better."
“We know that patients want to get as much of their care close to home as possible,” Dr. Pasternak said, adding that while trying to fulfill this desire, Stony Brook University Hospital also has to increasingly address the responsibility of controlling the best resources of the community, region and state.
Southampton Hospital President and CEO Robert Chaloner pointed out that the hospital is the largest employer in Southampton, and he said it is also the strongest force for keeping doctors in the community.
"I’ve been here now for six years and I’ve watched it overcome many of the problems of the past,” Chaloner said of the hospital. In that time, the reputation has improved and new health care facilities have opened, he said.
“We need to partner as we move forward, because wonderful as we are … as important as we are in this community, when all is said and done we are still a very small community hospital,” Chaloner said, explaining that the new partnership will ensure the longtime survival of Southampton Hospital, and make it stronger and more effective.
He emphasized that Southampton Hospital has not been forced to make this move. "We’re in the best condition we’ve been in over 10 years … We’re voluntarily entering into this partnership.”
Chaloner also noted that, while he is excited for a new facility on the Stony Brook Southampton Campus, nothing is set in stone yet. “We have a lot of work to do," he said. "We have a lot of regulatory and process steps that we need to take ... but it’s a strong first step.”
State and federal officials who will help usher the hospitals through those steps were on hand Monday morning.
New York State Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle, of Port Jefferson, said he has been working toward such a strong partnership between Stony Brook University Hospital and Long Island's community hospitals for 20 years — with Stony Brook at the center of a wheel and the community hospitals as the spokes.
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., of Sag Harbor, said he wouldn't be where he is today without both the hospital and college campus.
"I was born here, my sister was born here, my children were born here," he said. "This hospital has a special place in the hearts of my family.”
As for the campus, Thiele is a graduate of Southampton College — the school that was located there before Stony Brook Southampton bought it from Long Island University.
"To see those things brought together … I couldn’t be more proud," Thiele said, adding that while the campus has been a diamond in the rough, this partnership will help it meet its full potential.
“An awful lot of people deserve our thanks and appreciation,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, of Southampton, in praising the new affiliation and prospect of a new hospital on the campus.
He too explained why both the college and hospital are special to him.
“There have been four generations of Bishops born in this hospital starting with my father, and my mother worked here," the congressman said. "And for Southampton College — I worked there for a long, long time.”