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SUNY committee gives unanimous OK to LI hospitals' merger

Stony Brook University Hospital on March 26, 2014.

Stony Brook University Hospital on March 26, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A SUNY trustees committee voted unanimously Monday to approve the long-planned merger of Stony Brook University Hospital and Southampton Hospital.

The full 18-member SUNY board is expected to vote on the deal Tuesday in Albany. The four-member Academic Medical Centers and Hospital Committee's vote came after a presentation by SUNY staff liaison Stephanie Fargnoli.

Dr. Reuven Pasternak, Stony Brook's chief executive, said he was "gratified by the unanimous vote" and looks forward to the full board's action Tuesday.

Southampton Hospital chief executive Robert Chaloner said he was "very, very pleased" with the vote and also hopeful for board approval.

The deal must be approved by various state agencies, including the state Department of Health, the attorney general's office, and the state comptroller's office, a Stony Brook spokeswoman said.

Stony Brook and Southampton announced in October 2012 a nonbinding letter of intent in which the 125-bed East End hospital would operate under the 603-bed Stony Brook hospital license and become a second campus for Stony Brook Medicine.

Under the terms of the agreement presented Monday, no cash would be exchanged.

Southampton would lease its facilities to Stony Brook. Southampton would retain its board of directors, but Chaloner would become chief administrative officer, working for Stony Brook. Southampton's union employees -- about 80 percent of the 850 full-time staff members -- would remain in their current union, 1199 SEIU.

Also, 25 of Southampton's 125 beds would be transferred to Stony Brook. Chaloner said Southampton operates below capacity, and Fargnoli told the committee that Stony Brook needs more beds and that the addition would generate revenue.

Chaloner also said a plan to build a $225 million hospital on Stony Brook's Southampton campus remains alive. In 2012, officials for both institutions put forward that prospect.

"The new campus is an option preserved in the deal," he said. "Once we have completed this, it's something we would be working, planning and fundraising for, absolutely."

When it was announced, the deal was promoted as a way to boost health care on the East End and help solidify Stony Brook's position as the anchor for Suffolk health care. Officials also said it could give Stony Brook's underused Southampton campus a fresh purpose and, with a new hospital, help the East End economy.

The other two East End hospitals, Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, said they remain in talks with Stony Brook and North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System about possible mergers.

Hospital officials initially said they thought the deal could be completed in a year, but then said it proved to be more complicated. Others said SUNY Downstate Medical Center's loss of money after its affiliation with financially strapped Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, closed in May, made the SUNY trustees more cautious about this deal.

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