Editorial: Toward Better Health Care

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We feel a little sorry for Southampton Hospital CEO and President Robert Chaloner and other hospital officials. After years of hard work, they, no doubt, wanted to announce their pending merger with Stony Brook University Hospital on their own terms, but were pre-empted by a pesky state Department of Health requirement that they notify recent patients of the upcoming affiliation. As a result, word got out a little earlier than they wanted, spoiling the surprise party they had been planning for later this summer.

In short, having Southampton team up with Stony Brook means that patients will have access to specialists, clinical trials and technology that the tiny hometown hospital would never be able to provide on its own.

Evidence of the benefits a merger will bring has already begun to appear. Stony Brook now runs its family practice residency through Southampton, giving families access to more doctors. The partnership will help patients at the new Phillips Family Cancer Center gain access to cutting edge cancer care, and the merger no doubt weighed on the state’s decision, announced earlier this year, to allow the hospital to develop a cardio-catheterization lab as part of its Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart and Stroke Center.

Perhaps the most promising benefit of a merger will come when the hospital breaks ground on a new, standalone emergency care facility in East Hampton Town. Southampton has already received a $10 million state grant for the project, which it is undertaking, in part, because it eventually hopes to build a new campus for the main hospital on the grounds of the Stony Brook Southampton campus west of the village. Having a facility in East Hampton will provide much needed relief for both ambulance crews, who will have a far easier run to make, as well as residents of the town, who won’t have to wait in traffic as they head west to get stitches or attend to some other minor medical emergency.

Even though the element of surprise will be removed when the merger is officially announced in the coming weeks, it is still welcome news for residents of the East End, who have long been underserved when it comes to health care.

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