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Residents question Board on Med Center agreement

Two residents Tuesday raised issues with Town Board members about the handling of the Medical Center deal with Stony Brook.

Barbara Allen-Leiblein and Ken Pysher, both patients of Dr. Peter Kelt, came to the Town Board’s work session after hearing from their doctor that there’s no deal for him to continue practicing on the Island.

Ms. Allen-Leiblein said stories she was reading didn’t mesh with what Dr. Kelt was telling her. Mr. Pysher questioned why the town had to rush into a contract with Stony Brook that would exclude Dr. Kelt.

He emphasized that as a driver for senior residents who had appointments with off-Island doctors, the process was time-consuming and difficult. He called Dr. Kelt the premier expert in the country on tick-borne disease, noting that the possibility of losing 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide, permethrin — because of a new State Department of Environmental Conservation policy, would create the “perfect storm” on Shelter Island.

Town Board members explained that facts have been in a state of flux the past couple of months as Supervisor Gary Gerth worked to ensure an agreement with Stony Brook University Hospital — the only major player that had followed through with an interest in taking over management of the Medical Center.

The reality at this point is the town has completed a deal to split the building. Stony Brook policies wouldn’t allow Dr. Kelt to be included in its staffing, Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said, but he could use space for his practice with other doctors of his choosing. The rental cost to Dr. Kelt would be a token $1 per year.

Mr. Gerth noted that he had reached out to the medical system Northwell several months ago and he and Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams had followed through several times, but Northwell had been silent until very recently. That left only Stony Brook as a possible partner in helping to provide reliable medical care on the Island.

Councilman Paul Shepherd, also a patient of Dr. Kelt’s, said he had conversations with the physician months ago and Dr. Kelt told him then he saw only two options: Stony Brook could keep him in the mix in its staffing or he would retire.

Other options for Dr. Kelt emerged and he believes a deal will be done with one of them.

Still, after a discussion of the information, Mr. Pysher and Ms. Allen-Leiblein left the meeting questioning whether their elected representatives had dropped the ball, failing to be sufficiently aggressive to secure an agreement for Dr. Kelt sooner.