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Hospitals join together to improve East End service

July 1 is the official day when Eastern Long Island Hospital (ELIH) expects its affiliation with Stony Brook University Hospital to become official. ELIH President and CEO Paul Connor III told Peconic Landing residents last week it’s a marriage after a long courtship that links the two hospitals as the best way to serve the East End.

Between now and July, residents will see new signage announcing the relationship and identifying the local hospital as Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, Mr. Connor said.

Expansion of health services is already taking place, making way for an enlarged staff, more specialty treatments and training of young doctors.

Particularly critical to Shelter Island residents, where town officials are working to stabilize medical treatment, is the introduction of “telemedicine,” an emerging system of delivering health care to patients who can interface with doctors electronically to get immediate assistance during off-hours.

Dr. Nathanael Desire, one of two Island-based physicians, is a long-time advocate of telemedicine, Mr. Connor said. Dr. Desire provides treatment to Peconic Landing patients, spending two days a week at the senior housing facility in Greenport.

Another plus to the decision to affiliate with Stony Brook is a sharing of some services with Southampton Hospital, another Stony Brook affiliate.

East End residents are served by Stony Brook ambulances on the North Fork, with that hospital’s first responders evaluating patients who can be transported to ELIH in Greenport or taken to Stony Brook. Stony Brook has long been the trauma center for East End hospital patients in need of critical care for head injuries.

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

Most importantly, services not previously available in Greenport such as evaluation of stroke victims will be able to happen locally. Time is critical in assessing a stroke patient’s needs, and in the past, only Peconic Bay Medical Center 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.

Insurance problems that have plagued some ELIH patients will be lessened since 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.

Some cancer patients who previously have had to travel to Stony Brook for infusion therapy will have a closer unit that Stony Brook has opened in Southampton (see “State-of-the-art cancer center opens to service the East End,” May 2).

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.

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.

ELIH will also become another training center for Stony Brook which should help increase the number of doctors, specialists and nurses available locally.

The Eastern Long Island Hospital Foundation is in 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, but they will take time and he said he will update the community as they develop.