Don’t be alarmed. That’s some sound health advice for anyone concerned about Peconic Bay Medical Center’s pending merger with North Shore-LIJ Health System, one of the country’s largest integrated health care systems and the biggest in New York.
This isn’t WalMart buying a chain of mom-and-pop shops. This arrangement, which is typical in today’s health care climate, will allow the doctors, nurses and support staff in Riverhead to provide the best possible care to residents of the town and beyond. That will be achieved through improved health services — right now, for example, the East End has no cardiac cath lab or trauma center — and the overall advantage of North Shore-LIJ’s deeper pockets and health insurance provider, CareConnect Insurance Company Inc.
State Senator Ken LaValle has expressed grave concern about PBMC’s decision to partner with the Nassau County-based health system instead of with Stony Brook Medicine. He says the move will result in an “arms race” among the three East End hospitals. Such a situation could also be defined as good old-fashioned competition that could benefit patients. It’s also worth noting that medical centers are in no way tied to counties for funding, so whether a hospital is located in Nassau, or even upstate, simply does not matter; no local taxpayer monies are involved.
The turnaround that hospital CEO and president Andrew Mitchell and the board have accomplished in the last 15 years at the former Central Suffolk Hospital on Roanoke Avenue has been almost miraculous. Mr. Mitchell says that when he was hired, the hospital couldn’t pay its bills and was having equipment repossessed. Since then, a new emergency room and state-of-the-art surgical wing have been added to the building and a new ambulatory campus has been built in Manorville. Today, instead of hemorrhaging money, PBMC Health operates at a surplus. The hospital has also received some $50 million in philanthropic donations over the past 10 years.
Its financial health has given the Riverhead hospital some bargaining power during negotiations, even at a time when independent hospitals cannot stand on their own and still be able to thrive.
Mr. Mitchell and the PBMC board members have more than proved their worth to the 220,000 people the hospital serves. They believe that, in North Shore-LIJ, they have picked a partner that not only has the vision and financial wherewithal to improve medical care on the East End, but can be trusted to follow through on its promises.
While the details of the deal have not yet been made public, we have full faith and confidence that the right call was made.