Today’s historic merger between Peconic Bay Medical Center and Northwell Health will soon make life-saving medical services available to East End residents who have always needed to travel up-island for trauma care and cardiac arrest treatment.
The merger, announced last March, was consummated today through an agreement signed by hospital officials during a ceremony at Peconic Bay Medical Center this morning.
“Today marks a new era that’s built on a vision that all residents of the East End deserve state-of-the-art, life-saving medical services right here where they live,” said Andrew Mitchell, PBMC chief executive officer, during this morning’s ceremony.
Though the East End has the highest proportion of 55-and-over residents in Suffolk County, there has never been a local hospital with a cardiac catheterization lab, which administers life-saving treatment to heart attack patients.
Heart attack victims have had to travel to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in East Patchogue and Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook for appropriate care — and both hospitals are such a distance from the East End that it is often impossible for residents to receive the necessary medical intervention within the recommended 120-minute window of time after the patient’s first contact with EMS.
Building a cardiac catheterization lab at PBMC is a “major priority” in the merger, according to Northwell chief executive officer Michael Dowling.
“This facility has been waiting for a cath lab for over a decade, so now we’re actually going to move it forward,” Dowling said today. “We think it’s the right priority.”
Construction on the lab will begin soon after the state approves PBMC’s certificate of need, which has already been filed. Once construction begins, the lab should be accepting cardiac arrest patients within a year or two, Dowling said.
The merger will also bring trauma care services to the East End. Like cardiac arrest patients, trauma victims – usually people injured in automobile accidents – have also always needed to travel to Stony Brook for treatment, either by ambulance or helicopter.
In both cases, time wasted traveling to another hospital can mean the difference between life and death.
Northwell plans to begin construction on a full-service trauma center as early as the end of the year, Mitchell said, but he expects PBMC will be accepting trauma patients before then.
“Because of all the investment and growth we’ve put into the emergency department over the years, we meet most of the requirements already,” he said. “We’re hoping we can be designated to start accepting trauma patients in eight to 12 months.”
Doctor Lincoln Cox, director of PBMC emergency services, said his department already has most of the pieces in place to begin accepting trauma patients.
“All our doctors are already trained in trauma,” he said. “We’ve been taking care of trauams for the last couple years. We’re just making it officials by bringing in more support staff for the surgical department and in the trauma room.”
Bringing these services closer to home will be a “great win” for the community, Cox added.
“One of the things I always hear is that people don’t want to travel,” Cox said. “They want to get their healthcare out here so they can visit their loved ones while they’re in the hospital and be close to home.”
Merging with Northwell will also give PBMC access to the health system’s robust radiology department, which has more than 120 radiologists in “every sub-specialty imaginable,” according to radiology chair Jason Naidich.
“In terms of diagnosis, imaging is involved in almost every sub-specialty in medicine,” Naidich said. “It can make all the difference in your outcome.”
A mixture of on-site procedures and remote readings means that PBMC will have access to a wealth of radiology specialists that it otherwise would not have the volume of patients to support.
“Most small hospitals don’t have a dedicated pediatric radiology service,” Naidich said. “We have a whole team of pediatric radiologists at Cohen’s Children Hospital.”
Access to Northwell’s radiology services will be available at PBMC starting immediately, Mitchell said.
Other changes coming to PBMC include a brand new 16-bed intensive/coronary care unit, expanded outpatient services and expanded neuroscience, gynecology and gastro-intestinal services.
“This merger allows us to provide more comprehensive offerings to this community, to raise the quality of service, to innovate together,” Dowling said. “It’s not just about Northwell. It’s about us and Peconic Bay together now. We’re now one.”
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