Connor: SBU ‘resonated’ with ELIH as future partner

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  Eastern Long Island Hospital CEO Paul Connor.
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Eastern Long Island Hospital CEO Paul Connor.

Eastern Long Island Hospital CEO and president Paul Connor reflected on the 110-year-old hospital’s monumental decision to partner with Stony Brook University Hospital on Friday morning, noting that the unanimous decision by the hospital’s board of trustees points to “very strong support from the medical team and staff.”

Details have yet to be revealed about how specifically the hospital’s decision to merge with SBU will affect day-to-day care on the North Fork, though Mr. Connor — CEO for the past 16 years — said that joining the larger health system will provide opportunities that surely would not have otherwise been available in the future.

“ELIH doesn’t have the size or revenue base” to get the insurance reimbursement rates that larger health systems get, he said, which explains decisions by other community hospitals on the East End to partner with larger operations themselves.

“So we need to join a larger entity that has the financial resources.”

The way reimbursements work in today’s health care industry, he said, favor reducing risk over paying for services. So, the idea is “to get people out of the brick and mortar and engage the population over their own well-being and health. That’s the transition. And the community hospital just can’t do this alone.”

ELIH’s board of trustees, after months of negotiations, announced last night that the hospital — the oldest in Suffolk County, and employer of about 400 people in the area — will be moving toward a partnership with SBU Hospital, the county’s only level one trauma center. The hospital had also been considering North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, which just three months ago announced that it would be joining forces with Riverhead’s Peconic Bay Medical Center.

The third East End Hospital — Southampton Hospital — started paperwork in January to move toward a partnership with SBU, leaving ELIH the final hospital in the five East End towns and the “tiebreaker” among the three over which larger system it would choose.

Leaders with the Riverhead hospital said at the time that North Shore-LIJ — the nation’s 14th largest health system — was the right choice to make the hospital into a “regional medical center.” However, PBMC drew some criticism from perhaps the most visual SBU supporter on the East End — state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), after whom the school’s football stadium is named — who called the decision “a step backward into an unnecessary health care arms race.”

Mr. Connor said Mr. LaValle was “a driving force” in the process to choose Stony Brook. The state senator is currently in Europe teaching, according to a spokesperson, though offered the following statement: “I think it is indeed fitting that ELIH has shown its continued dedication to the community by ensuring its mission and future are guided by decisions made at the local level.”

PBMC CEO Andrew Mitchell offered the following statement about the Greenport hospital’s decision:

“We look forward to working with ELIH collaboratively far into the future. Together, we have a responsibility to provide quality health care to our respective East End communities.”

Mr. Connor didn’t speak specifically about why the board of trustees chose SBU over North Shore-LIJ, only stating that “what SBU put forth resonated with our board better.

“We believe that the strategic approach that we had in discussions with Stony Brook will be able to allow us to create value for the community by following a model that’s already been established Eastern Long Island Hospital and Stony Brook University.”

Mr. Connor said on Friday he expects paperwork and the regulatory approvals to take about a year until ELIH is officially part of the SBU network.

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