Editorial: What’s exciting about ELIH joining Stony Brook

For Eastern Long Island Hospital, a rural community health care facility with a $50 million annual budget, the process of choosing which major Long Island hospital system to join could not have been easy.  

On one hand, you had Stony Brook, rooted in Suffolk County and the pre-eminent teaching hospital on Long Island. Then there was North Shore-Long Island Jewish, one of the nation’s largest private health care systems.

It was like a free agent coming off a great year choosing which baseball team to join: the Yankees or the Red Sox. In the end, ELIH’s board of directors couldn’t exactly make a bad choice, even if arriving at the decision required time and careful calculation.

There is a lot to like about the choice they did make. Having ELIH become part of the Stony Brook health care system will offer plenty of advantages for North Fork residents. From an expanded roster of affiliated physicians to more locally based specialty services, the merger should make a significant difference in how you are treated.

After meeting with officials from both Stony Brook and Eastern Long Island hospitals this week, our editorial board identified three key elements we like about this week’s decision.

You have a choice

If Eastern Long Island Hospital had chosen North Shore-LIJ, as Peconic Bay Medical Center did earlier this year, local residents would have been stripped of the ability to choose between local networks for their care.

Instead, we went from having two local hospitals in the area to having two major health care systems with a community care feel. The range of services will expand and you will have more options about where to receive treatment.

The number of physicians you can access through ELIH will also increase dramatically.

Academic resources

An appealing part of Stony Brook’s pitch to ELIH was that it isn’t blindly trying to modernize its approach to health care — it is doing so in a way that is being studied on campus and recalibrated to best fit patients’ needs. Doctors do not want businesspeople to tell them how to run things, and in the Stony Brook environment decisions are based on locally studied academic research.

Under the Stony Book system,ELIH will also have increased access to some of the best-trained medical students in the region, something hospital officials are confident will lead to better long-term care as these doctors settle on the East End and open practices ELIH patients will be able to access easily.

State-of-the-art technology

With a $50 million annual budget, Eastern Long Island Hospital has been limited in how quickly or how often it can upgrade technology, particularly in the areas of information systems. Meeting infrastructure needs can also be challenging.

As part of a $1.1 billion health care system, the hospital will be able to meet modern-day health care needs at a lower cost.

“We will have every tool at our disposal,” said ELIH CEO Paul Connor.

And that’s something the people of the North Fork should be excited about.