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ELIH, Peconic Bay Medical exploring new affiliations


BEVERLEA WALZ Town Councilwoman Chris Lewis thinks local hospitals joining a consortium would not affect patient care.
BEVERLEA WALZ Town Councilwoman Chris Lewis thinks local hospitals joining a consortium would not effect patient care.

Word that Eastern Long Island Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center are engaged in talks about affiliating with either Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) or the North Shore-LIJ Health System could affect mostly the business operations, rather than patient care.

At least that’s the view of former nurse and Shelter Island Councilwoman Chris Lewis, whose relationships with medical personnel from New York City and Long Island continue to be solid.

Consortiums in New York City have already gobbled up hospitals and private practices there and Ms. Lewis said she suspects that North Shore-LIJ could well be the organization spreading its wings over both Suffolk and Nassau counties.

The aim, from what she’s hearing from her former colleagues, is to be able to negotiate better deals with insurance companies and to centralize purchasing to take advantage of volume discounts.

Even SBUH, at the hub of the East End Health Alliance formed several years ago among Southampton and Eastern Long Island hospitals as well as Peconic Bay Medical Center, may not remain a stand-alone, Ms. Lewis said.

Southampton announced two years ago that while it was continuing its relationship with the East End Health Alliance, it was in talks with Stony Brook about a separate agreement to join forces. But that deal hasn’t been inked yet.

Ms. Lewis speculated that such an affiliation with a large consortium of hospitals won’t have patients being sent up Island for services with any more frequency than the current situation when some services are needed.

But there could be changes in top level administrators, Ms. Lewis speculated. If a lot of business functions, such as billing and purchasing as well as contract negotiations with unions were centralized, it could reduce costs, she said.

“We’ve already seen doctors getting out of their [private] practices” and forming alliances to cut overhead costs, Ms. Lewis said. She pointed to Dr. Peter Kelt’s affiliation with Winthrop University Hospital, which handles a lot of his office administrative functions, including billing.

“I don’t think we’ll fare badly as a small community,” Ms. Lewis said, referring to the ability of patients to get many of their health care services close to home.