Better Care Stressed In Hospital Merger

Heart lab and cancer center to open soon
State officials were on hand for the unveiling of the new Stony Brook Southampton Hospital sign at the entrance to the hospital on Monday. The official merger took place on Aug. 1. Taylor K. Vecsey

State and local officials gathered with administrators of the new Stony Brook Southampton Hospital on Monday to celebrate their merger, which took place officially earlier this month, and to watch as a new Stony Brook Southampton Hospital sign was unveiled at the main entrance of the hospital and a new flag was raised.

“This has been a huge journey, truly,” State Senator Kenneth LaValle said at lunch, which followed at the hospital’s Parrish Memorial Hall. Senator LaValle, who has worked to improve health care on eastern Long Island for nearly a decade, was praised at the event as a major force in making the merger a reality.

The senator, who hails from Port Jefferson, spoke of a phone call he had received in Albany from a Southampton constituent who wanted to become a physician and described how “medically underserved” the South Fork was. The merger, he said, means that the people of eastern Long Island “will be beneficiaries of the kind of quality of health care so no one will be calling me again to say this community is medically underserved.”

The merger brings academic and community medicine, faster access to life-saving services, as well as to the results of the latest medical research and clinical trials to the South Fork, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the president of Stony Brook University, said. A cardiac catheterization laboratory will open soon, the first on the East End, and the new Phillips Family Cancer Center is under construction.

The existing hospital in Southampton Village is eventually to be replaced by a new facility on the Southampton Stony Brook University campus, to the west off County Road 39, and Dr. Stanley said it would bring new jobs and economic growth. The new cancer center is to remain in place.

Stony Brook University Hospital has collaborated with Southampton Hospital over the last 10 years on internship and residency programs, among others, and the joint effort will continue to grow, Dr. Stanley said. Stony Brook also recently became affiliated with the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, including researchers and clinicians.

“Bringing these two institutions together . . . provides tremendous new opportunities to train our providers in a community-based, excellent medical setting in the real world outside the boundaries of academics,” Dr. Stanley said.

 State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who was among officials at the lunch, said, “This is something that is going to make a difference in people’s quality of life and the health care they receive and the lives they are able to live for decades — for literally a century to come. That’s how important I think today is.”

Mr. Thiele, a Sag Harbor resident, said Robert Chaloner, who until the merger was chief executive officer of Southampton Hospital and is now chief administrative officer of the merged hospital, deserves much gratitude. Mr. Thiele spoke of Mr. Chaloner’s leadership and direction, along with that of Robert Ross, the hospital’s vice president of community and government relations, whom he called Mr. Chaloner’s sidekick.

“There were questions about whether this hospital would survive and, if it did, how it would survive,” Mr. Thiele remembered. He said it had been a long haul for the board of directors of Southampton Hospital, and that he was sure there had been times “where they literally thought the sun would go black before this day occurred.” It was one of several references to the solar eclipse happening on Monday, and the crowd laughed. “Well, we made it with an hour to spare.”

Mr. Chaloner said since the hospital was founded in 1909 its mission had been to provide access to the highest quality health care and that the merger would allow it to meet its mission.

“This really is a beautiful marriage,” New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. The merger took vision, she said, adding that the residents of and the visitors to the South Fork “deserve the kind of quality of care that has been afforded, yes, by this institution for over 100 years, but why not be able to capitalize on all of the advances and services available not far away?”