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Southampton hospital plan in limbo as legislature nears adjournment

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital on Aug. 21, 2017.

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit: Stony Brook University / Conor Harrigan

ALBANY — Plans for a new Southampton hospital hung in the balance Tuesday as state lawmakers rushed to pass bills before the end of the 2018 legislative session.

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital wants to move its entire facility from Southampton village to Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus and build a new hospital “in the next five to 10 years.” It’s part of a plan that grew out of Southampton’s decision to join Stony Brook Medicine last fall, one of a wave of Long Island hospital mergers.

But it all hinges on the university’s ability to lease 24 of its acres to the Southampton hospital. For that, the university needs state approval in the form of legislation.

And that legislation has a formidable opponent: the New York State United Teachers. The union contends the bill to clear the way for the new hospital threatens “privatization of our members’ jobs.”

Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) have introduced a bill to permit the lease and recently amended it to try to address the union’s concerns about job losses. Among other wrinkles, the new version of the bill mandates that the university cannot contract out any jobs or services to the private hospital.

Neither was certain whether the bill would be voted on before the state Legislature adjourns for the year. Wednesday is the last scheduled day of the session. With more than 200 legislators trying to get their bills on the agenda before time runs out, some proposals die without ever getting a vote.

“We’re waiting, obviously, with bated breath to see what happens,” Robert Chaloner, chief administrative officer of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, said Tuesday. “We’re determined to try to move this forward and will be very disappointed if it doesn’t.”

Unions have expressed concerns about job losses.

NYSUT sent a memo to legislators outlining its objections, saying, among other things, it doesn’t guarantee that union jobs currently at Stony Brook University Hospital won’t be transferred to the privately run Southampton facility or that state funds would be used to run or build the private hospital.

“We requested that this bill be amended to include specific labor protections, which were not provided,” NYSUT wrote. Further, its letter said there is a 10-year window to execute the land lease under the legislation, and “more time is needed to ensure” the legislation “does not create unintended consequences.”

NYSUT opposition can often kill a bill, especially in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

Chaloner said it would take some five years to get donors and planning lined up before construction could likely begin. Any fundraising could be delayed if the land lease doesn’t get approved this year.

“Donors won’t take you seriously if you don’t have a place to go,” he said.

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