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Eastern Long Island Hospital closes in on final steps of partnership with Stony Brook

Eastern Long Island Hospital’s affiliation with Stony Brook University Hospital is expected to be finalized July 1, nearly four years after the merger between the two healthcare systems was first announced.

ELIH President and CEO Paul Connor II spoke to residents at Peconic Landing in Greenport last week about the decision to link the two health care systems and provided an updated timeline for what’s next.

New signage will begin going up announcing the partnership and identifying the hospital as Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, Mr. Connor said.

Mr. Connor said he wanted to inform residents about the expansion in health services that are already taking place and will continue. The hospital will have an expanded staff, more specialty treatments and the ability to engage in training of young doctors to whom ELIH would likely not have access without the new partnership.

The hospital will also share services with Southampton Hospital, another Stony Brook affiliate, he said.

Stony Brook ambulances have already been on the North Fork. The hospital’s first responders are able to evaluate and stabilize patients who may be transported to ELIH in Greenport or taken to Stony Brook for treatments not available in Greenport. Stony Brook has long been the trauma center for East End hospital patients in need of critical care for head injuries resulting from vehicle accidents and other serious conditions.

“It’s a tremendous benefit for our community” to have the Stony Brook first responders on North Fork roads, Mr. Connor said.

Most important, services not previously available in Greenport such as evaluation of stroke victims will be able to happen locally under the new setup.

Time is critical in assessing a stroke patient’s needs. In the past, only Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead was a designated stroke center.

In many cases, patients will be able to be treated locally, while those needing more extensive procedures can be quickly transported to Stony Brook. But having the link to Stony Brook that provides a qualified neurosurgeon to provide quick evaluation of a patient’s needs will enable ELIH to gain the necessary certification.

Insurance problems that have plagued some ELIH patients will be lessened because Stony Brook’s network of doctors will take coverage from more companies than some ELIH doctors could offer, Mr. Connor said.

One of the difficulties small hospitals like ELIH have had is negotiating fairer contracts with some insurance companies. But the affiliation with Stony Brook will improve insurance reimbursements and result in more insurers willing to cover doctors on the ELIH staff, he said.

Some cancer patients who previously have had to travel to Stony Brook for infusion therapy will have a closer unit Stony Brook has opened in Southampton called The Phillips Family Cancer Center.

Expansion of the ELIH campus is already in the works. An upgrade to the operating suite is partially done and the next major renovation will be to the Emergency Department, Mr. Connor said.

He estimated that the last ER renovation took place in 2003 or 2004 and said it needs to be expanded. On the other hand, ELIH has long had a team of emergency room specialists and that will continue, Mr. Connor said.

The ELIH detoxification unit at the hospital and outpatient system in Riverhead eventually will be augmented with an outpatient unit somewhere in Southold Town, Mr. Connor said.

There will also be better integration of physical and behavioral health thanks to the affiliation, Mr. Connor said. Sometimes patients dealing with difficult physical health problems experience behavioral changes resulting from depression and an emotional inability to cope with necessary changes in their lifestyles. By integrating the two disciplines, outcomes can be more positive, he said.

ELIH will also become another training center for Stony Brook which should help to have more doctors, specialists and nurses available locally. It’s all part of Stony Brook’s Mastery in General Surgery that affords doctors who want to specialize with an additional year of training in various disciplines. Those trainees would generally not be available to a rural hospital like ELIH, he said.

Among the good news to those in the community who have supported the Eastern Long Island Hospital Foundation is the agreement with Stony Brook that money the foundation raises here will stay in this community, Mr. Connor said, noting that through the foundation’s annual appeal and capital gifts made to the hospital, Peconic Landing residents have been very generous.

There will be other changes coming Mr. Connor said that he can elaborate on at a later date.

The merger between ELIH and Stony Brook was first announced in 2015, shortly after PBMC announced its merger with Northwell Health.

Photo caption: Paul Connor speaks at Peconic Landing. (Credit: Julie Lane)

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