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Island doctor rejected by Stony Brook for Medical Center

NYU-Winthrop Hospital has served notice it’s not going to continue its affiliation with Dr. Peter Kelt on Shelter Island. Stony Brook University Hospital, which is taking over management of the Medical Center on January 1, 2020, will not include the long-time doctor in its staffing.

Stony Brook officials had told Supervisor Gary Gerth that if they were selected to manage the Medical Center, they would have final word on staffing. The officials have visited the facility and given it high marks, but said they would like to join the two separate office spaces now occupied by Dr. Kelt and Dr. Nathanael Desire into a single office.

Mr. Gerth said it made sense to allow Stony Brook officials to choose the physicians, since he and other members of a committee working on the transition can’t judge doctors’ credentials.

“We all love him,” Mr. Gerth said about Dr. Kelt. “It’s very frustrating.”

He added that although Stony Brook seems to be the only institution capable of taking over the Medical Center, final agreements haven’t been signed. The supervisor said he expects that by January 1, Dr. Desire, who has a relationship with Stony Brook, will remain on a part-time basis and another doctor will be assigned along with nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

In August 2020, when Shelter Island resident Dr. Josh Potter completes his residency with Stony Brook, he is likely to be brought into the mix. There are still details to be worked out, Mr. Gerth said.

The reasoning behind Stony Brook’s decision about Dr. Kelt is because he’s not board certified and has one year of residency, not the three years now required.

Dr. Kelt believes he and others in his position should have been grandfathered in when requirements were changed.

When he started to practice 37 years ago, requirements were different. There is no board certification for general practitioners then or now, and he was required to serve a single year of residency. He would have had to serve another two years as a hospital resident now, something he’s not inclined to do after so many years of practicing medicine. It’s why doctors today may be general practitioners, but will get board certified as internists, he said.

“I had no intention of retiring” either several months ago or at the end of this year, Dr. Kelt said. He’s hoping Islanders he has been treating for 37 years will create a groundswell of letters to Stony Brook stating their opposition to the decision.

“It would be a shame if Stony Brook takes over this practice and shuts me out,” the doctor said.
Mr. Gerth said he favors Islanders letting Stony Brook officials know their feelings about not including Dr. Kelt in the mix

Should that fail, the doctor said he’s unsure what he’ll do. The reason for affiliating with NYU-Winthrop was to eliminate much of the paper work and reporting required by the federal government for Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies. Opening another practice independently on the Island would saddle him and his staff with all the paperwork they’ve been trying to avoid.

“Solo practitioners have become extinct,” he said about today’s medical profession. At the same time, he said “if push comes to shove,” he might be forced into opening an independent office.

That’s a decision he said he’ll make on December 31.

“Big corporate medicine said, ‘Screw you,’ to Shelter Island,” he said, referring to both the NYU-Winthrop decision to cut ties with the Island at the end of the year and now the apparent Stony Brook decision.

Dr. Kelt’s original intention was to continue to work into his 90s — he’s currently 67 — but sometimes asks himself why he needs the aggravation. He answered his own question: He loves being a doctor and serving generations of patients.

“It’s all a slap in the face,” Dr. Kelt said about Stony Brook’s plans. “I might be forced into retirement” after being the Island’s main medical provider for almost four decades.

Mr. Gerth said Stony Brook requires that the names of its officials with whom the town has been negotiating not be revealed, and said they don’t want to comment while negotiations are ongoing.