The days are long gone when the East End’s community hospitals were small rural clinics that could splint a broken leg or stabilize an acute, life-threatening health crisis until a patient could be transported farther west.

As the population here has ballooned in recent years, the demand for emergency care has also increased. 

The Emergency Department at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead saw 40,000 patients in 2023 — more than the total population of Riverhead — and the hospital, which has been part of the Northwell Health network since 2016, is expecting that number to continue to grow in the upcoming years.

It’s in the context of this pressing need that hospital staff, donors and volunteer local emergency medical service volunteers cut the ribbon on a new 6,600-square-foot expansion of the hospital’s emergency department on May 23.

The expansion, which is expected to begin accepting patients this summer, will increase the emergency department’s capacity by 75 percent. It comes on the heels of the hospital’s work over the past decade to become a certified Stroke Center, a Level III Trauma Center, and to provide advanced cardiac care services and a cardiac catheterization lab.

“There was a point in time when we often had to transfer patients, or they didn’t come here because we weren’t able to provide services for trauma or heart attacks,” said the hospital’s Executive Director, Amy Loeb, in a mid-May interview with The Beacon. “Now that we’ve invested in these programs, we treat those patients, and keep them close to home. Our population is growing, and this will help us to serve them more efficiently.”

The triage area in the expanded emergency department.

Dr. Loeb said patients and EMS providers will immediately notice the difference in the way the emergency department functions. It will begin at the moment that ambulance crews enter the emergency department through a new entrance into the expanded space, where patients will be immediately triaged and taken to one of two areas with a dedicated team of providers — one for immediate, life-threatening emergencies, and one for less acute emergencies.

“The expanded trauma bay is literally steps from the door they will be coming into, and the CT scanner will be right there,” said Ms. Loeb. “We have built the expansion for speed, with the area dedicated for that time-sensitive care. It’s designed to be efficient for every patient, and should help our EMS partners get back on the road as quickly as possible.”

Last year, philanthropists Mary Jane and Tom Poole gave $5 million to the emergency department project — part of a $50 million effort that also includes increasing bed capacity and   establishing a dedicated Center for Women and Infants. 

The department is now named the Poole Family Trauma & Emergency Center, and the hospital has raised $48 million of that $50 million goal.

Mr. Poole said at the ribbon cutting ceremony that he recently learned firsthand of the importance of having this level of care close to home.

“Five weeks ago today, I faced a reality test, and guess who saved my life?” said Mr. Poole. Dr. Stanley Katz, the chief of cardiology at Peconic Bay Medical Center, was performing a cardiac CT and angiogram when he didn’t like what he saw, and arranged to have Mr. Poole taken immediately to Northwell’s Cardiac Surgery unit at South Shore University Hospital for a triple bypass and valve replacement.

“I’m a living example that the sun does shine the next morning,” he said. “If you ever hear me complaining about anything again, kick my a#&!”

“I think it’s just extraordinary that they understand the importance of having a top-notch facility close to home, and that they have a lot of faith in our ability to do that for the community,” said Ms. Loeb of the Pooles. “Philanthropy and community support really can move health care, in your own community.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Tim Hubbard said the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps call volume has been “insane” as he toured the new emergency department with his wife Lisa at the ribbon cutting. He added that, at the new Riverhead Town Hall on Second Street, he sees and hears a steady stream of ambulances heading north on Roanoke Avenue toward the hospital.

“Peconic Bay Medical Center and Northwell Health have knocked it out of the park again,” he said. “They’re making it so you never have to leave the Town of Riverhead for high quality care.”

— Beth Young


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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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