The Eastern Long Island Hospital Board of Trustees voted to affiliate with Stony Brook University Hospital on July 9.
Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine and senior vice president of health sciences, said that the affiliation cannot be finalized until the necessary permissions are given by the SUNY Board of Trustees and other regulatory authorities.
Under the merger, Stony Brook University would assume Eastern Long Island Hospital’s license and would operate its hospital.
The possible merger follows the trend of smaller hospitals on Long Island merging with networks with more resources, such as that of Southampton Hospital merging with University Hospital. This spring, Peconic Bay Medical Center announced its proposal to join North Shore-LIJ’s network.
Eastern Long Island Hospital would remain “virtually identical,” in that the same people will work at the hospital, Kaushansky said. Their employer, salaries, benefits and union affiliations will stay the same.
This affiliation mirrors that of Southampton Hospital’s merger with the University Hospital. University Hospital and Southampton Hospital have been formally affiliated since 2008. This past January, the SUNY Board of Trustees voted unanimously to move forward with a new affiliation agreement.
University Hospital boasts Suffolk County’s only tertiary care center and Level 1 Trauma Center, meaning that the hospital has specialized care beyond primary and secondary care doctors and is equipped for emergency situations.
Both Southampton and Eastern Long Island Hospital send patients that are “too complicated” directly to Stony Brook because University Hospital is the closest tertiary hospital geographically, Kaushansky said. If Eastern Long Island Hospital were to join forces with another hospital, that hospital would still send their patients to Stony Brook; therefore, the merger would cut out the middleman.
The emergency room at University Hospital had over 88,000 visits in its most recently reported year, according to a U.S. News & World Report Health ranking.
Stony Brook is slated to reap many benefits from a potential merger with Eastern Long Island Hospital. Between Southampton and Eastern Long Island Hospital, these affiliations will bring in approximately $30 million to $50 million a year for University Hospital, Kaushansky said.
Eastern Long Island Hospital provides the five health sciences schools at Stony Brook — Dental Medicine, Health Technology and Management, Medicine, Nursing and Social Welfare — with a valuable teaching venue for their students. Stony Brook has about 500 medical students and 1,000 nursing students. Anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of graduates will go on to work in community hospitals similar to Eastern Long Island Hospital rather than a trauma center like University Hospital, the dean said.
“Isn’t it better for their education to spend some of their time training in a community hospital?” Kaushansky said. “So we need to develop these affiliations with community hospitals so we can provide better training for our medical students or nursing students.”
University Hospital has the desire to provide the best care to Suffolk County by developing ambulatory care sites and outpatient practices in Riverhead and Mattituck to give those in the east end access to highly specialized physicians, Kaushansky said. These include areas such as neurosurgery and thoracic surgery.
The recent proposal to merge leaves only two hospitals, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, in Suffolk County that are unaffiliated with larger networks.
“Our Board has deliberated over the past several months and has focused on a strategic partner that will assist ELIH in fulfilling its mission and that will best address the evolving healthcare needs of our community,” Thomas E. Murray, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Eastern Long Island Hospital, said in a press release. “We believe by joining Stony Brook University Hospital, the stewardship of the Hospital’s mission to care for the residents of the North Fork of Long Island is in good hands.”