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Stony Brook opens children's hospital

Baeta Soles, of Lake Grove, and her son,

Baeta Soles, of Lake Grove, and her son, Donald, 3, sit in the waiting room of the new pediatric emergency room center at Stony Brook University Medical Center. (June 30, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

After a few years of recruitment and expanded programs, Stony Brook University Medical Center announced Wednesday it has started a children's hospital, the first in Suffolk County and the second on Long Island.

Stony Brook Long Island Children's Hospital, as it will be formally called, will cost $80 million over the next few years to be fully funded through a mixture of grants and gifts, the hospital said. That money will go toward recruiting faculty, expanding programs and new construction.

Although there are plans to build a separate hospital, Stony Brook is concentrating now on expanding its faculty and existing programs under the new designation, said the hospital's chief executive, Dr. Steven Strongwater.

In the last three years, Stony Brook has added 40 faculty members in pediatrics, bringing the number to more than 100, many of them researchers. In 2008, it opened a new women and infants center. In April, it opened a new pediatric emergency department and next year it plans to open a new neonatal intensive care unit. Already in place are 100 pediatric beds, including a 12-bed pediatric intensive care unit.

"The time is right to put a stake in the ground and call ourselves a children's hospital," Dr. Margaret McGovern, the chairwoman of pediatrics and the newly appointed physician-in-chief of Stony Brook Children's, told about 100 faculty and officials gathered in the hospital's lobby Wednesday.

The announcement comes four years after Stony Brook was fined by the New York State Department of Health following the deaths of three children at the medical center; its pediatric cardiac surgery program was ordered closed as a result. Wednesday, a state health department spokeswoman, Claudia Hutton, said plans were under way to reopen that program at Stony Brook in partnership with Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan.

When asked if the expansion of pediatric programs at Stony Brook had anything to do with the previous controversy, Strongwater said the development of a children's hospital "is a result of a strategic planning process that began in 2007. The children's program was selected on the basis of the strength of our academic programs, our ability to provide . . . clinical services, to participate in translational/clinical research and to meet the clinical needs within the community."

In 2008, more than 5,000 children from Suffolk sought medical care either in Nassau County or New York City, for a $73 million loss in potential revenue for Stony Brook, McGovern said. Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, formerly Schneider Children's Hospital, part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, sits on the Nassau-Queens border and, until yesterday's announcement, was the Island's only children's hospital.

Asked about the new hospital, North Shore-Long Island Jewish spokesman Terry Lynam said: "We wish them luck."

By establishing a separate pediatric hospital, Stony Brook will be able to attract and train top researchers, Strongwater and others said.

"It's an opportunity to grow the clinical care, translational research and post graduate programs," said Dr. Gerald Quirk, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology.

The state's health commissioner, Dr. Richard Daines, who was at the announcement, praised Stony Brook's decision to expand programs and recruit faculty before building a new hospital. "This is not a build it and they will come approach," he said. "They are already here."

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