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Hospital gift will fund heart, stroke center

The entrance of the recently completed Jenny and

The entrance of the recently completed Jenny and John Paulson Emergency Department at Southampton Hospital in Southampton. (Oct. 4, 2010) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Southampton Hospital has gotten a $5 million gift — one of the largest in its history — to create an ultramodern heart and stroke treatment center, including the construction of an advanced endovascular surgical suite, where doctors will have X-ray equipment within the sterile operating area and can monitor cardiac stent placements on video display screens next to them.

Expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete, the new Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart and Stroke Center — honoring the couple who made the donation — will also allow the hospital to upgrade and expand its teaching program for nurses, residents and other staff and will let the hospital perform more sophisticated noninvasive testing, such as listening to blood flow in arteries to detect blockage before a stroke develops.

“We’re heavily into the planning and pre-construction phases,” said Dr. Fred Weinbaum, the hospital’s chief medical officer. “The most exciting part is ... it will support the creation of a truly modern operating suite that will combine high quality imaging with a sterile environment.”

Audrey and Martin Gruss have been strong supporters of the hospital for years and appear at high-profile events every summer. They are prominent philanthropists — she is president of the foundation, he is senior principal of Gruss & Company, a multibillion dollar private investment firm.

Audrey Gruss — in a prepared statement — noted that people over age 50 have the highest probability of experiencing a stroke or heart attack. “Martin and I felt it was important that our local hospital have the capacity to conduct stroke and vascular distress intervention,” she said.

The new center will provide the bulk of its treatment to year-round residents, although Dr. Weinbaum said some patients who require complex surgery would still be stabilized and transported to hospitals such as Stony Brook or St. Francis.

The entire project will likely cost between $8 million and $8.5 million, and the hospital plans additional fundraising in the next two years. There will not be a need to add additional beds to the hospital, the only one on the South Fork.

The grant matches the previous largest gift, a $5 million donation from Jenny and John Paulson, which covered the cost of doubling the hospital’s emergency treatment area.

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