Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University officials on Monday announced that the community hospital plans to join the Stony Brook system and replace its aging facility with a new, state-of-the-art building on the Stony Brook Southampton college campus.
Both sides hailed the moment as the dawning of a new era of regional health care on Long Island at a press conference on Monday at Southampton Hospital’s Parrish Memorial Hall.
The private, 125-bed hospital, built in Southampton Village in 1909, would join the Stony Brook Medicine health care system and provide care under Stony Brook University Hospital’s state operating license, according to the terms of a non-binding letter of intent that hospital and university officials have signed. Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook have been affiliated since 2008, but the new agreement is a major strengthening of the partnership.
Officials said the plans are designed to enhance health care on the South Fork during a time of national health care reform, seeking to train, retain, and attract doctors and other health care professionals to provide service. The agreement aims to optimize the medical and educational resources of each health care provider, revitalize the campus in Shinnecock Hills, offer more clinical services, and create jobs in the health care fields.
Southampton Hospital President and CEO Bob Chaloner called the proposal a “fantastic opportunity” to blend the intimacy and accessibility of a top community hospital with the specialized clinical resources and educational programs of an academic medical center. He noted that Southampton Hospital serves as a lifeline for the community and an organizing force for keeping doctors on the East End.
“We need to partner as we move forward, because as wonderful as we are ... when all is said and done, we’re still a very small community hospital entering an era of unprecedented change in health care and an era when hospitals of all sizes will be stressed and challenged,” he said, adding that a partner would ensure the long-term survival of the hospital. Stony Brook—as the regional academic medical center and the site where Southampton already sends its premature babies, trauma cases and heart patients, for example—is the logical choice for a partner, he said.
The proposal is expected to be finalized by the end of 2013, depending on the regulatory process, Mr. Chaloner said.
Construction of a high-tech hospital building on about 12 to 15 acres of the 82-acre campus in Shinnecock Hills—a main feature of the new plan—will be dependent on the speed and success of a Southampton Hospital-led philanthropic campaign to raise an estimated $225 million for the project. But Mr. Chaloner said he hopes to have the new facility in place within five years. An exact site on campus for the hospital is still undetermined.
The building would have similar square footage to the current hospital, which is roughly 250,000 square feet, but would have far more outpatient care space—in keeping with health care trends—rather than inpatient space. As a result, it actually would feature fewer patient beds, about 100 compared to 125 now. It would also feature more single-patient rooms, be more energy efficient and offer a more appropriate layout than the historical building in the middle of Southampton Village.
Mr. Chaloner noted, however, that Southampton Hospital plans to improve access to services at various satellite locations, not just at the single hospital site. As an East Hampton resident, he said he is aware of how long it can take to get to the hospital, and that the plan involves distributing more services in East Hampton and Montauk, a task made easier by advances in information technology.
The plan marks a big step forward on talks that have been under way for a few years, particularly after the 2010 elimination of many of Stony Brook Southampton’s academic programs and the shuttering of dormitories on its Shinnecock Hills campus. Talks between Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook gained more steam after an August 2011 settlement ended a lawsuit over the termination of Stony Brook Southampton’s environmental sustainability program. The campus currently houses graduate-level programs in marine science, writing and arts education.
Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president of Health Services and dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine, said the stronger ties will help both hospitals better prepare for health care reform by “cultivating a broader, stronger network of hospitals and health care providers to improve efficiency, control costs and better coordinate care across Suffolk County.”