Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: The doctor is not in

Dr. Peter Kelt might not practice medicine at the Medical Center.

I must say that I was pretty surprised to see the front page headline in the June 13 Reporter that said, “Island Dr. rejected by Stony Brook for Med Center.”

According to the story, Stony Brook University Hospital is taking over the management of the Island Medical Center and will not include Dr. Peter Kelt in its staffing. Dr. Kelt has practiced here for 37 years and said that he had no intention of retiring, the story said.

I visited the Senior Center last Wednesday and most of the members there for lunch were pretty vocal about wanting Dr. Kelt to stay.

“We were able to get Chase bank to stay here when they talked about leaving,” Giovanna Ketcham said.

“Why can’t we keep Dr. Kelt also?” she continued, adding that it’s a slap in his face after so many years.

Mrs. Ketcham said that the doctor saved her son John’s life and helped her granddaughter when she skinned her face in a bike accident.

Bob and Virginia Springsteen said that “he’s gotten us past a lot of illnesses and he spends time with us.” Donna King noted that many seniors want to have a rapport with their doctor and they have that with Dr. Kelt. Mrs. Ketcham added that he even made housecalls to her mother when she was bedridden.

“Also without Dr. Kelt here, we’d all have Lyme disease,” she noted, referring to his expertise in tick-borne diseases.

Betty Ann showed me a letter she wrote to a vice-president at Stony Brook. She referred to a line in the Hippocratic oath that says “to do no harm.”

“We in Shelter Island will be the victims of  ‘great harm’ if you continue planning to remove Dr. Peter Kelt from our medical center. We have depended on his great abilities, skills, caring and concerns for 37 years. He is irreplaceable,” her letter said in part.

She explained to the others present that so many of his patients are in his heart. It was learned that Dr. Kelt is 65 years old and was not planning on retiring. I also was told that a petition is being circulated by the “Dinner Bell” and will be sent to the Town Board and Stony Brook.

When someone asked why he just does not stay here and run his own practice, Lauri Fanelli said that “It’s very hard for a doctor to work on his own these days.”

Mrs. Fanelli was referring to all of the complications involved with medical billing with insurance and Medicare and Medicaid.

“An independent physician cannot do it all,” she said.

I remember interviewing Dr. Kelt for this newspaper when he first arrived on the Island. Dr. Stroll was retiring and the Town wanted a second physician. Island resident Dr. Jack Kelly who was affiliated with Stony Brook at the time was able to get Dr. Kelt to come here.

Dr. Kelt was eager to be the kind of general practitioner that the Island needed.

The other physician here was Dr. Grunwaldt. So after Dr. Kelt set up practice at the Medical Center we had two full-time Island doctors. One Saturday in the summer of 1984 when my son cut his foot at the beach, I took him to the medical center and Dr. Kelt fixed him up.

I do hope that this can all be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.