The East Hampton Healthcare Foundation sponsored an educational symposium on Saturday, September 8, at the East Hampton Library. With more than 45 people in attendance, the forum included Robert Chaloner, Chief Administrative Officer at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital as the keynote speaker. His presentation painted a bright future for East End health care with the new affiliation with Stony Brook University Hospital.
Joining the hospital in 2007, Chaloner spoke about his experiences when he ventured into the community. “I spent most of the summer being screamed at about the lack of services, and I experienced the anger of East Hampton residents who felt abandoned as no medical resources were being provided.” With an eye on change, Chaloner said that the hospital administration is engaged in factfinding to develop a strategic plan to meet the needs of the communities.
“We are learning what the communities on the East End need. There are diverse communities; there is the wealthy summer population and the rapidly growing Latino community. One solution is not going to do it all,” said Chaloner.
During the first year at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, improvements and new facilities have been added as part of the vision Chaloner discussed. He added, “375 parking spots were added around the hospital but you still can’t find parking. That’s because health care has changed, with more procedures being done as ambulatory, calling for less inpatient facilities.”
“We’ve added a new cardiac catherization lab which recently opened and new diagnostic equipment such as PET scans and have improved emergency room procedures and facilities,” he said. “We are committed to keeping our health care in our community. We’re looking to build new facilities and are actively planning a satellite in East Hampton as well as other facilities scattered around the East End.”
However, one of the major challenges facing the hospital is staffing. Chaloner indicated that “67 percent of our work force lives west of the canal. Doctors can’t afford a home here. The housing costs are so high that nurses and nurses’ aides can’t afford to live here either. With the worsening traffic,” he said, “you don’t want your doctor traveling three hours before operating on you.”
He also stated that with an aging physician base, a large number of doctors are getting ready to retire.
Hal Skopicki, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Stony Brook University Heart Institute, spoke about the new cardiac care center at the hospital. The new facility “delivers state-of-the-art health care locally. The mortality rates are the best on Long Island for cardiac events. Every protocol done at Stony Brook is done at Southampton Hospital. The cardiac procedures are nearly indistinguishable from what is done at Stony Brook.”
Samuel Ryu, MD, who serves as Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and Deputy Director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center discussed the goal to bring the expertise, technology, and the translation of the clinical trials to Southampton via the Phillips Family Cancer Center. With a groundbreaking ceremony held on June 10, the new facility is scheduled to open later this year. The Cancer Center will be set-up to provide full cancer care services. A state-of-the art radiation oncology suite is in the process of being built and will contain the newest technology, including a linear accelerator.
Darin Wiggins, MD, the Vice Chair and Service Chief of Emergency Medicine at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, has been with the hospital for over 20 years. He admitted, “I almost quit the first day. I had the first overnight shift and I realized that I was the only doctor awake 40 miles in any direction. I also realized that in a heart event, I had to get you stable enough to get you 45 minutes away.”
Wiggins spoke about the hospital’s future vision. Improvements have already been made to the emergency room in Southampton and include “a pediatric trauma room color coded for any size child.” In addition, Wiggins mentioned that urgent care facilities such as a Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Emergency Department Satellite are planned in East Hampton. However, Wiggins stated, “It’s a tough market for ER services. There are only five freestanding ERs in New York.”
Like Chaloner, Wiggins reiterated the need for more doctors on the East End but indicated that “the lack of affordable housing makes it difficult to achieve.” He recommended the community speak to their representatives on the town and village boards and request that a plan be developed to make affordable housing a priority.