Talks between Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University about a potential move of the hospital to the Stony Brook Southampton campus have deepened somewhat over the past few months, with the main players informally discussing what it would be like to have the hospital occupy a corner of the college campus.
Such a move also could lead to expanding the school’s curriculum to offer graduate-level courses in fields such as health information technology or bioethics, a field of study concerned with the ethics and philosophical implications of certain biological and medical procedures, such as organ transplants, for example.
But the exact arrangement of such a hospital-university partnership that protects the interests of both sides, as well as budgeting issues, are among those that remain to be hashed out.
Southampton Hospital CEO and President Bob Chaloner recently described the talks as brainstorming sessions, but said that although both sides still favor the move, there was a “good year’s worth of dialogue ahead of us still.”
The pace of talks about relocating the hospital from Southampton Village to the 82-acre campus in Shinnecock Hills quickened slightly after an August 2011 settlement of a lawsuit over the termination of Stony Brook Southampton’s environmental sustainability program.
Kenneth Kaushansky, the dean of the Stony Brook School of Medicine and senior vice president of health sciences, is said to be a leader of the talks on the university side, and Victor Wai-Man Yick of the executive administration in the Health Sciences Department is also said to have taken part in the talks. Neither Stony Brook official responded to a list of emailed questions.
A move is seen by its proponents as a way to more tightly link the hospital—which has been looking to build a more modern facility for years—and the university, which, particularly in light of the shuttering of most of the academic programs on the campus in 2010, has struggled to ensure that the campus maintains its higher-education purpose.
“I think what’s happening is, we’re in that phase where everybody’s thinking, ‘What if?’ but we still have huge regulatory and financial and other issues to consider,” Mr. Chaloner said.
A total cost for the entire move is estimated to be roughly $225 million, according to Mr. Chaloner, and much of that would have to come through fundraising. “That’s one of the things we have looked at pretty seriously over the last year, is could we stage a viable philanthropic campaign? And we think we could,” the CEO said.
Another challenge, he said, would be what kind of state filings would be required and in what direction the state would like the hospital to proceed, since the state health care system is going through a lot of changes. Those discussions would be in the future, he said.
One thing that is certain, he said, is that the hospital has become more pessimistic about its chances of investing in its current building on Meeting House Lane. “It would be much more expensive and extremely difficult to try to bring this place to where we want it,” Mr. Chaloner said. “The last time this building was anything serious was the 1970s, and that was way before the era of a lot of the technology, the information systems, the focus on primary care, and it’s just not keeping with where health care is going.”
The direction of health care, Mr. Chaloner said, is toward preventative care, getting people earlier and better access to health care. The goal for Southampton is not to become a large teaching hospital, he said. Nor is it to become a medical school, as that would require more space, he said.
“We’re becoming much more excited about the idea of bringing a newer, smaller kind of high-tech facility that’s linked to ambulatory facilities that are kind of well distributed in all of our communities,” he said, “and less emphasis on a huge, monolithic, central structure.”
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., an alumnus of the former Southampton College and a big proponent of the move, said he is briefed frequently on the talks. Last month, he said that having the hospital move to the campus is a big piece of the puzzle that will lead to the “renaissance” of the campus.
“I’m convinced,” he said, “once the hospital is located on the campus, that will be the anchor that will ensure the future success and longevity of the college for a long time. I think once the hospital is there, there will never be discussion again about closing down programs or selling the campus or some of the things we’ve heard in recent years.”