Beginnings of a Regional Solution (10/4/12)


We were excited by the news we received this week about Southampton Hospital possibly joining Stony Brook University’s medical system. If this plan becomes a reality, it’ll be a good deal for all of us on the East End.

As a facility built initially in 1909 to serve a rural population, Southampton Hospital has had its shares of difficulties over the years. While things have improved greatly in the past decade — both in terms of care and finances — it’s still very much a small community hospital facing big world issues — among them rising medical costs, an aging population and out of sight insurance premiums.

Admittedly, there’s still a tendency among East Enders to look west when it comes time for pre-arranged procedures and surgeries. With Stony Brook Hospital’s medical staff, including one of the leading cardiologists in the world, it’s easy to see why. But if this affiliation becomes a reality, Southampton will be able to tap into Stony Brook’s network of medical professionals for support, diagnosis and procedures.

And we could use that. Given all the glitz and glamour of the Hamptons, people in the outside world don’t typically think of the East End as a “medically underserved community.”

But in fact, we are. Thanks to the high cost of living and the small year round population, fewer doctors choose to practice here than in other areas. Insurance companies often don’t see this as a competitive market, and consumer choices in that realm are limited too.

We are also an aging population, and as the baby boomers continue to gray that’s only going to complicate matters in the years to come. Our local hospital working hand in hand with a medical center with the resources of Stony Brook will help Southampton continue to advance in positive ways, whether through new diagnostic tools or its ability to attract more high quality doctors out here.

Then there’s the campus perspective. Ever since it took over Southampton College from Long Island University, Stony Brook University seems to have been at a loss over what to do with the Southampton campus, and never really gave it a fair shake as its own learning institution. But with talk this week of a new medical facility on the campus, we can finally start to envision a vibrant future.

In addition to medical programming, perhaps there could be an art, writing and theater therapy component which functions alongside the MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program currently offered there. What about a cutting edge culinary program that revives the campus’ sustainability focus and melds into the hospital’s food service division? Combining medical, educational and artistic facilities would make the campus vibrant and a truly community centered destination for the South Fork and East End as a whole.

Of course, this is all preliminary — the plan exists only in the form of a letter of intent and there is a lot to figure out prior to this happening.

While plenty of hurdles remain, it’s incumbent upon us all to follow this closely and be supportive of this idea moving forward. When it comes to medical care, we’ve been an underserved community for too long. With all the resources, ingenuity and forward thinkers in this area, this affiliation should be something we can make a reality.

The residents of the East End deserve nothing less.