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Peconic Bay Medical Center will join the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the hospital announced in a joint press release with North Shore-LIJ this morning.

PBMC’s board of directors voted last night to join the North Shore-LIJ system, extending North Shore–LIJ’s presence into eastern Long Island for the first time. Other Suffolk hospitals already in the North Shore-LIJ system are Huntington Hospital, Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and South Oaks Hospital in Amityville.

The decision came after “an exhaustive strategic planning process,” PBMC chairwoman Sherry Patterson said in a press release announcing the vote.

The agreement would “establish important new regional medical services and provide long-term stability for our patients during a time of great volatility in the healthcare market,” Patterson said.

PBMC was an affiliate member of the North Shore-LIJ health system between 2000 and 2006. It has since become affiliated with Stony Brook University Hospital, which provides emergency department and radiological services in the Riverhead hospital. PBMC’s affiliation agreement with Stony Brook expires in 2016.

“The North Shore-LIJ Health System is thrilled to be renewing its relationship with Peconic Bay Medical Center, which has a long, proud history of service to communities disbursed throughout a wide geographic area,” North Shore-LIJ’s president and CEO Michael J. Dowling said. “By working in an integrated and collaborative way, and investing in new initiatives and key clinical programs aimed at attracting new customers, we’re confident we can position the hospital for future success while fulfilling our shared mission of improving the quality of life in the local communities we serve. ”By working in an integrated and collaborative way, and investing in new initiatives and key clinical programs aimed at attracting new customers, we’re confident we can position the hospital for future success while fulfilling our shared mission of improving the quality of life in the local communities we serve.”

PBMC is also a member of the East End Health Alliance, a three-hospital alliance formed by PBMC, Eastern Long Island Hospital and Southampton Hospital, which bargains as a group with health insurance companies.

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Officials annouce Stony Brook-Southampton agreement on Oct. 1, 2012. From left: former congressman Tim Bishop, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, State Senator Ken LaValle, Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, Stony Brook University president Dr. Samuel Stanley, Bob Chaloner, Southampton Hospital chairman Peter Larsen, and Stony Brook University Hospital CEO Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University)

Southampton Hospital announced on Oct. 1, 2012 that it had signed a non-binding letter of intent with Stony Brook University Hospital that began the process of becoming part of the Stony Brook health system. In January, the State University of New York trustees approved the affiliation between Stony Brook and Southampton.

State Sen. Ken LaValle has advocated for the three East End Hospitals to become part of the Stony Brook Health System. He calls the idea “a regional plan that I have made a priority throughout my career.” LaValle did not return a call seeking comment on the PBMC-North Shore-LIJ announcement.

Heralding the SUNY trustees’ vote on Southampton, LaValle said it was “a critical step…to providing access to affordable, quality healthcare in eastern Suffolk County. Building a regional healthcare delivery system will ensure the viability of both Stony Brook Hospital and our community hospitals throughout the area,” LaValle said in a January press release.

At the Oct. 1, 2012 press conference where Southampton and Stony Brook announced their letter of intent, LaValle said he expected both Eastern Long Island Hospital and PBMC to agree to enter the Stony Brook system within a year. He said both North Fork hospitals had already begun discussions with Stony Brook.

A Stony Brook-led health system, taking in the three East End hospitals as well as Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in Patchogue was the recommendation of the NYS Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century — commonly referred to as the Berger Commission — in its 2006 final report.

Last October, PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell acknowledged the hospital was in “active talks” with both Stony Brook and North Shore-LIJ. He said the hospital trustees would be guided by which partner offered more to the community PBMC serves in the way of programs and services.

Mitchell declined comment on today’s announcement.

North Shore-LIJ is one of the nation’s largest health systems, according to the joint press release. It operates 19 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient physician practices throughout the region.

“North Shore-LIJ’s owned hospitals and long-term care facilities house more than 6,400 beds, employ nearly 11,000 nurses and have affiliations with about 10,000 physicians. With a workforce of about 54,000, North Shore-LIJ is the largest private employer in New York State,” the release said.

Peconic Bay Medical Center employs about 1,300 people and cares for more than 7,000 inpatients and 168,000 outpatients annually. Its emergency department serves about 37,000 patients a year. PBMC, a state-designated stroke center, also operates a certified home health agency, a 60-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, a six-bed palliative care center, an advanced ambulatory and urgent care campus in Manorville, and a growing network of community-based family care and specialty physician practices throughout central and eastern Suffolk County.

The merger of PBMC into the North Shore-LIJ health system must be approved by the N.Y. State Department of Health.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.