Despite a recommendation to approve Peconic Bay Medical Center’s application for a cardiac catheterization lab in favor of one proposed for Southampton Hospital, a committee of state Public Health and Health Planning Council members has approved both proposals.
Two steps remain before any final determination is made, however, as the competing applications must now be considered before the full council, and the ultimate decision lies with New York State health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.
Seeing the need for only one new facility, Department of Health staff, as well as an ad hoc committee of cardiac surgeons and cardiologists, had previously recommended disapproval of Southampton’s application.
After analysis of both proposals, PBMC’s Riverhead location was the key factor in the endorsement of its plan, according to testimony from Charles Able, deputy director of the health department’s Center for Health Care Facility Planning Licensure and Finance. Other factors included PBMC’s plans to construction of a helipad and two labs rather than one, housed in a new 17,850-square-foot critical care tower.
PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell also pointed to the hospital’s location while speaking before the vote at a hearing held last Thursday in New York City.
“Peconic Bay Medical Center, as pointed out by the Department of Health is located in Riverhead, at the junction of both the North and South forks,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Every road going out to either fork goes through Riverhead.”
Mr. Mitchell asked for support of PBMC’s application along with Dr. Stanley Katz, who in August was appointed full-time chairman of cardiology at PBMC and is set to lead its percutaneous coronary intervention program. Interventional cardiologist Dr. Steven Lederman and Jerry Hirsch, senior vice president for strategic planning at Northwell Health, also advocated for the PBMC plan.
“The expansive rural geography of eastern Long Island creates a large population on each fork to be in need of these services, in addition to the large population in central eastern Long Island surrounding Riverhead,” Dr. Lederman said, adding that PBMC could serve that population because of its location.
In a telephone interview Monday, Mr. Mitchell said he was confident PBMC would receive final approval for the project.
“We’re thrilled that after basically 15 years, 20 years of trying to bring this service to East End that we’ll be doing so,” he said. “We’ll be building an incredibly modern state-of-the-art facility.”
Southampton Hospital made a case for its own application after PBMC’s was already approved at Thursday’s hearing.
Frank Cicero, a consultant representing Southampton Hospital, said those in support of the South Fork hospital’s application were “shocked” to learn that the defining criteria for PBMC’s proposal were a helipad and second lab.
Mr. Cicero pointed to the potential cost of PBMC’s total project — about $42.6 million — compared to Southampton’s plan to retrofit existing facilities, which is expected to cost between $750,000 and $850,000.
Paul Connor, CEO and president of Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, said Monday that he spoke at the hearing as an advocate for the North Fork and a 17-year resident of the area.
“What really struck me when I read these two proposals was that Southampton would be up 21 months earlier at a fraction of the cost,” Mr. Connor said. “If the health department basically ignored that, there’s basically 21 months of morbidity and mortality that could be addressed by the health department granting Southampton a PCI lab.”
He said it “defies logic” for the health department not to choose Southampton, considering its proposed timeline and cost.
Mr. Mitchell said that timeline isn’t exactly correct and told the committee PBMC could have a lab open within 12 to 18 months. Southampton Hospital representatives said its lab can be ready within six months.
Those who spoke in support of Southampton Hospital told the committee a PBMC catheterization lab could lure away patients who might normally seek services there or at Stony Brook University, Brookhaven Memorial or even Eastern Long Island hospitals — potentially costing those facilities a combined $25 million in revenue.
“This will do great harm to Stony Brook University Hospital, Brookhaven, Southampton and Eastern Long Island Hospital,” Mr. Cicero said.
“Given what is potentially going to be a totally arbitrary decision that can satisfy no one, I see no reason not to accept the recommendation of the cardiac advisory committee set up to help in this situation as well as the department,” committee member Dr. Glenn Martin said before voting against Southampton’s application. “And ultimately, the commissioner will decide what he will decide.”
The full Public Health and Health Planning Council is expected to discuss both applications in early December.