Pictured Above: At Tuesday’s ribbon cutting. | photo courtesy Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital

After years of fostering a partnership, Stony Brook Medicine and Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport made their merger official on Tuesday with an unveiling of the hospital’s new name: Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital.

In making the change official, ELIH is following in the footsteps of Southampton Hospital, which last year became Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.

After a morning of torrential rain, the ribbon cutting ceremony was moved from the entrance of the hospital to the auditorium at the Peconic Landing senior community about a mile away.

State Senator Kenneth LaValle, long an advocate for the state’s higher education system, and for Stony Brook University in particular, told the crowd he’s been working to get the three East End hospitals into the Stony Brook system since shortly after he took office in 1977.

New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle

He said that, at the time, there was talk about closing ELIH, but New York’s governor at the time, Hugh Carey, summered on Shelter Island, and he fought to keep it open in those days so that the governor could have access to emergency health care.

Riverhead’s Peconic Bay Medical Center made the decision to enter the Northwell Health system several years ago, as the other two East End hospitals decided to partner with Stony Brook.

“Just like our own children, you can’t always get them to all go in the same direction at the same time,” said Mr. LaValle. “But there’s always contingent hope that things that should have happened will happen.”

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, the dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, pointed out all the ways health care services have improved and will continue to improve since the hospitals began the partnership, including two EMS “fly cars” stationed on the North Fork to respond to emergencies, a telehealth connection that allows doctors at the East End hospitals, and on Shelter Island, to confer with specialists at Stony Brook’s main campus, and expanded partnerships between the surgery and behavioral health department in Greenport and Stony Brook University psychiatric residents and general surgery fellows.

He pointed out that 42 percent of practicing physicians in Suffolk County today call Stony Brook their alma mater.

Dr. Margaret McGovern, Stony Brook Medicine Vice President for Health System Clinical Programs and Strategy, said the partnership builds on the hospital network’s “integrated delivery system that provides high quality, efficient and coordinated care.”

She said her work is to bring the latest advances in medicine to the communities Stony Brook serves, and to “realize the delivery of care close to home, that coupled with the resources of a world class tertiary research center at Stony Brook University Hospital, will provide the entire continuum of care.”

She pointed out that there are 1,300 doctors teaching and practicing within the Stony Brook health system.

South Fork State Assemblyman Fred Thiele said he was excited about the day because “this hospital is critical to the health care of the independent nation of Shelter Island, which I represent.”

“We’ve seen the benefits already on the South Fork with Southampton being part of the Stony Brook system,” he added.

ELIH CEO Paul Connor

ELIH CEO Paul Connor said he was surprised at how emotional he was at the idea of making the merger official.

“From here we can see the future of health care for the communities that we serve, and that future is bright,” he said. “We’re creating new options to keep health care local.”

Longtime philanthropist Patricia Brennan told the crowd about a recent experience she’d had in which she developed a severe headache while playing cards at the North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue.

She requested to be taken to ELIH, where a CAT scan revealed she had a cerebral hemorrhage in her occipital lobe, and “within minutes I was in an ambulance to Stony Brook University.”

Patricia Brennan

She said she was impressed throughout the process with the degree of care she received.

“Thank you so much. I’m happy to be alive,” she said.

ELIH Board Chairman Thomas Murray, who lives in Orient, said he often hears visitors to the area who ‘are forced’ to go to the hospital say ‘boy, I didn’t know you had such a great hospital over there.’

“We fought very, very hard, the board and I and Paul, to keep this hospital alive and in the community,” he added. “We were courted by a lot of hospitals and we had to make a big decision…We have a responsibility out here….everybody knows everybody. We’re little now, but after Stony Brook takes care of all the wonderful things that they were talking about, maybe we might get a heck of a lot bigger in the future. But we’ve always wanted to make sure that the quality of care we would give our patients would be second to none.”

“This is a very, very happy day for us,” he added.

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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