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Urge to merge: Board hears hospital report

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Paul Connor, CEO of Eastern Long Island Hospital, at the Town Board work session Tuesday.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Paul Connor, CEO of Eastern Long Island Hospital, at the Town Board work session Tuesday.

At the last Town Board work session of 2015 on Tuesday, Paul Connor, chief executive officer of Eastern Long Island Hospital, gave a report on the Greenport facility’s merger with Stony Brook University Hospital.

In July, ELIH’s board of directors announced the merger. The deal is part of a trend, with Southampton Hospital also becoming part of the Stony Brook system and Peconic Bay Medical Center joining Nassau County’s North Shore-LIJ.

Mr. Connor said last fall that “community hospitals like us” can’t survive without partnerships that align them with academic medical centers. On Tuesday, he said final agreements between the two hospitals would take place sometime in late summer or early fall next year, noting that working with a government entity — the hospital is pat of the State University of New York system — always takes time.

To illustrate that point, Mr. Connor noted that ELIH would be going though “a gauntlet of approvals, including from the SUNY board, the state department of health, the state comptroller, attorney general and governor.

Mr. Connor outlined what will change and what will remain the same after a deal is finalized.

The mission of the hospital, the smallest on Long Island will remain the same, Mr. Connor said, which is to meet the evolving health care needs of the North Fork and Shelter Island communities. Those responsibilities have changed over the years, with the population becoming the oldest per capita in the state, Mr. Connor said. Medicare eligible patients make up 26 percent of the communities, compared to 13 percent for Suffolk County.

ELIH’s “culture of caring,” won’t change with the merger with the large organization, Mr. Connor emphasized. In a Medicare study, he said, ELIH was among hospitals that reported the highest patient satisfaction rates in the state, and that will continue.

Also, the hospital’s “culture of safety,” will remain intact. The third leading cause of deaths in the U.S., Mr. Connor said, is “hospital-acquired conditions,” after heart disease and cancer. The illness contracted just by being in a hospital covers everything from post-operation infections to “stage 4 bed sores,” Mr. Connor said. But ELIH, in a Consumer Reports study, was ranked the third safest hospital of 185 surveyed in New York State.

“ELIH is all about being local. You can’t have remote control health care,” Mr. Connor said, and it the hospital will still be focused on one-on-one care.

What will change is there will be the an increase in specialty care — or specific medical practices — and enhanced primary care.

Also, a clinical campus program will be instituted for the training of physicians. One advantage to the community means that with more services available, there will be more jobs, including, for example, more nurses and clerical personnel, and with a training program, more physicians will be attracted to settle in the area.

Councilman Peter Reich asked what affect the changes would have on the hospital accepting certain insurance plans. Mr. Connor said ELIH was accepting all plans at present, but “insurance companies hold the cards, not health care providers.”

“Who controls your hospital?” Councilman Paul Shepherd asked.

“Stony Brook controls the hospital,” Mr. Connor said.

In other business: Joy Bausman, honorary regent of the Shelter Island chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, presented Town Board members with the DAR’s 2106 calendar.

The theme of the calendar is “preserving history, stone by stone,” which refers to the work the DAR has done to preserve the gravestones in the Presbyterian Church’s cemetery. The ongoing preservation efforts are not just to honor the nine Revolutionary War patriots buried there, but to also preserve the Island’s history, Ms. Bausman said.

Since a fire in 1880 destroyed many town records, Ms. Bausman said one of the few records of Shelter Island’s history before that date reaming are the stones of the cemetery.

If people were interested in the calendar or want to learn more about the preservation program, they can call Ms. Bausman at 749-1203 or email her at [email protected]

Proportionality, or codifying restrictions on house sizes in certain parts of the Island, has been tabled for now, Councilwoman Chris Lewis said, but will be revisited sometime in the new year.

There has been talk of new drafts of legislation on the issue. The Reporter asked Town Attorney Laury Dowd twice to view the drafts, but received no response.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty announced the town had received two checks, one for $100,000 for the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation’s capital fund and one for $30,000 dedicated to advanced training for the Island’s Emergency Medical Services teams.