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Nov 21, 2008 1:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook sign affiliation agreement

Nov 21, 2008 1:18 PM

Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University Medical Center formally struck a deal Friday for an affiliation between the health care providers.

The agreement between the community hospital and state medical center signed Friday morning at Southampton Hospital’s Parrish Memorial Hall in Southampton Village has been discussed for nearly a decade. Now that the plan has been realized, hospital officials anticipate cost savings and new and strengthened clinical services among a litany of benefits.

Southampton Hospital President and CEO Robert Chaloner said since he was hired at the hospital in late 2006 he has heard many times at society parties on the South Fork, “If you really need health care, you have to go to New York.” The new affiliation reinforces the fact that it’s not true, he said.

“This is a great and exciting day for us, because today’s event has been in the works for a lot of years,” said Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, president of Stony Brook University. She credited New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle with envisioning the affiliation to better serve patients with improved efficiency and quality of care.

The affiliation is billed as a method to stop competition among hospitals for doctors, patients and state-of-the-art equipment, and to avoid duplication of services, just as the East End Health Alliance, a coalition of the three eastern Suffolk County hospitals—Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport and Southampton Hospital—formed in June, was designed to do. “Duplication is a luxury we can no longer afford,” Dr. Kenny said.

The new affiliation will also give Southampton access to Stony Brook’s advanced care services, Stony Brook University Medical Center Chief Executive Dr. Steven Strongwater said. “We are, indeed, a perfect match,” he said.

Mr. Chaloner said the affiliation will save Southampton money because Stony Brook, the biggest hospital in Suffolk County, has greater purchasing power. It will also lead to greater clout in negotiations with health insurance companies, he said.

The goal is that Stony Brook and the East End Health Alliance hospitals will negotiate with insurance companies as a team, though he advised that there is some work to do before that happens.

Access to Stony Brook’s data and research will improve quality of care for patients, Mr. Chaloner said, adding that Stony Brook’s quality assurance personnel have already begun meeting with Southampton’s staff.

The hospitals are also talking about bringing Stony Brook medical students to Southampton, he said.

Mr. Chaloner thanked Dr. Martin Stone, a member of the Southampton Hospital Board of Directors, for bringing Southampton and Stony Brook together. Dr. Stone, who is also an educator and practitioner at Stony Brook, has been pushing for an affiliation for about eight years.

“In fact, they got the idea that I was a spy from Stony Brook,” Dr. Stone joked.

Southampton’s last affiliation was with New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, a tri-state federation of hospitals. That agreement started in 2005 and expired on July 1.

From 1998 to 2004, Southampton was affiliated with North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, as were all three East End hospitals under the now-defunct Peconic Health Corporation.

When the North Shore affiliation ended, Peconic Bay and Eastern Long Island both chose to affiliate with Stony Brook, while Southampton picked New York-Presbyterian.

Shortly after the affiliation began, New York-Presbyterian changed leadership, said the Reverend Peter Larsen, chairman of the Southampton Hospital Board of Directors. “We really didn’t get anything out of the Presbyterian affiliation at all,” he acknowledged.

In the case of Stony Brook, the hospitals already had a working relationship even before becoming affiliated and had off-and-on discussions about partnering for several years, Rev. Larsen said.

The affiliation finally got the traction it needed to come to fruition when Dr. Strongwater joined Stony Brook as chief executive a couple of years ago.

“There was always some question in years past as to whether a state-owned hospital could affiliate with private, non-profit hospitals,” Rev. Larsen pointed out. But the Berger Commission, which handed down health care mandates from New York State two years ago, trumped that, he said.

“When the Berger Commission came in, we were far ahead of what Berger wanted us to do,” Mr. LaValle said in a prepared statement the hospitals released. “This alliance came together thanks to critical people with the right personalities and the right backgrounds to pull it together. Building people, building strengths leads to one thing—better patient care.”

The commission recommended in 2006 that all three East End hospitals affiliate with Stony Brook to gain access to more advanced care services and “other benefits inherent in relationship with an academic medical center.”

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