Peconic Bay Medical Center is seeking approvals from the state Health Department to become a trauma center for the East End, a designation that would allow patients typically transported to Stony Brook University Medical Center to be treated in Riverhead instead.
PBMC president and chief executive officer Andrew Mitchell said space in the emergency department at the hospital’s main campus is being eyed as a possible location for the trauma center. The process of gaining that designation takes about two years, he said.
In order to make room for the trauma center, PBMC has proposed a 3,500-square foot emergency room annex on what is now part of the parking lot for Bob’s Discount Furniture on Route 58.
The project took a step forward Thursday, as the Riverhead Town Planning Board voted 4-1 to give it preliminary site plan approval.
The hospital is trying to shift minor injuries and ailments out of the emergency room at its main campus on Roanoke Avenue and into the new building, Mr. Mitchell said at the Planning Board meeting.
Should the new emergency room annex get built, he said the hospital would eventually need to educate people to go to the annex with minor ailments since state law prohibits the hospital from not treating patients who go to the emergency room — even if it’s for something minor.
The site plan also calls for a 1,945-square foot future expansion of the proposed annex building.
Before it can seek a building permit, PBMC still needs final site plan approval after some changes requested by the Planning Board to the proposed emergency room annex are completed, town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree said.
Planning Board member Stan Carey cast the lone “no” vote on the annex.
“That stretch of Route 58 is horrible and I don’t like the location,” Mr. Carey said. “It’s making a bad situation worse.”
He said he understands the need for the hospital expansion and feels the emergency department is a great facility but, he said: “I can’t get past the location.”
Mr. Carey said that during the holiday shopping season last year the parking lot was filled to capacity.
“I know that several members of the Planning Board don’t think that this is the perfect location for the annex and I think we recognize that’s one of the challenges,” Mr. Mitchell said. ”We don’t have a lot of options. We don’t have the money or the ability to build something anywhere we want to build it.”
Mr. Mitchell added: “We’re not the bad guys. We’re trying to do the right thing. We’re trying to respond to the overcrowding of the emergency department. We’re trying to keep health care moving forward as the population grows.”
Planning Board member Ed Densieski said: ”In my opinion, we could debate whether it’s a good location or not, but the hospital is a cornerstone of the community.”