PBMC benefactor John Kanas, flanked by his son John, shakes hands with Northwell Health's chairman of cardiology, Dr. Stanley Katz, after announcing a $5 million gift to the Riverhead hospital. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Peconic Bay Medical Center’s planned critical care tower just got a $5 million boost.

That’s the amount of the cornerstone gift the John and Elaine Kanas Family Foundation is making to Peconic Bay’s cardiac care program, which will provide life-saving, interventional cardiac care — including cardiac stents — on the East End for the first time.

The $5 million gift was announced last night at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, where the hospital held its second annual golf classic, an event that raised nearly $200,000 for the hospital.

“We’re very proud to be part of this story. We understand how serious this is,” John Kanas said after Peconic Bay Medical Center president and CEO Andrew Mitchell announced the gift, among the largest in the hospital’s history. Kanas and his wife Elaine live in eastern Suffolk.

The Kanas gift was not the only big announcement of the evening.

Dr. Stanley Katz, senior vice president for cardiovascular services at Northwell Health will personally lead PBMC's cardiac care program. Photo: Denise Civiletti
Dr. Stanley Katz, senior vice president for cardiovascular services at Northwell Health will personally lead PBMC’s cardiac care program. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Northwell Health’s senior vice president for cardiovascular services, Dr. Stanley Katz, who currently serves as chairman of cardiology for the health system, is stepping down as chairman of cardiology for the system to personally head up Peconic Bay’s cardiac care program, Mitchell said.

Katz had an announcement of his own. Eastern Suffolk Cardiology, a nine physician cardiology group with offices in Southampton, Westhampton, Riverhead and Wading River, has signed contracts to become part of the Northwell Health System as of October, Katz announced. The group is currently part of Stony Brook Community Medical PC and affiliated with Stony Brook University.

Operating a cardiac cath program – a 24/7 endeavor— requires “a large number of cardiologists in practice,” Katz explained.

“Eastern Suffolk Cardiology is a fine group of cardiologists,” Katz said. “They are very well-trained. They do fine work,” he said.

“It’s truly remarkable that a man of the caliber of Dr. Katz is coming out to head the program here,” Mitchell said. Eastern Suffolk Cardiology’s decision to join Northwell is “indicative of how well-known and well-respected” he is, Mitchell said.

Rendering of Peconic Bay Medical Center after completion of planned critical care tower.
Rendering of Peconic Bay Medical Center after completion of planned critical care tower.

“Last week we delivered to the Town of Riverhead plans for a $60 million new critical care tower at Peconic Bay Medical Center and we will break ground this fall,” Mitchell told the crowd gathered on the deck.

“As part of our partnership with Northwell, these kinds of things are now possible and for the first time, Peconic Bay is really on its way, with our great medical staff and new medical staff members, to become a regional medical center for the entire East End,” Mitchell said.

Peconic Bay became part of the Northwell Health system in January. Northwell’s commitment to building interventional cardiac care facilities in Riverhead — as well as a trauma center — weighed heavily for PBMC’s board of directors as they chose between Northwell Health and Stony Brook University.

The Riverhead hospital, as a member of the East End Health Alliance with Southampton Hospital and Eastern Long Island Hospital, was affiliated with Stony Brook University Hospital until it joined Northwell Health.  Both Southampton and ELIH have decided to partner with Stony Brook. But Stony Brook’s unwillingness to commit to building a cardiac cath for the East End was the deal-breaker, according to PBMC board officers.

Rendering of one of the new cardiac cath labs Northwell Health is planning to build in Riverhead. Artist's rendering: Peconic Bay Medical Center
Rendering of one of the new cardiac cath labs Northwell Health is planning to build in Riverhead. Artist’s rendering: Peconic Bay Medical Center

The East End has a higher proportion of 55-and-over residents than both Suffolk as a whole, Nassau and the U.S. overall. Given the age demographic, it’s no surprise the rate of interventional cardiac services for East End patients (5.6 per 1,000) is higher than the rest of Suffolk and Nassau, according to Mitchell — and the need for cardiac care is growing and will only continue to grow as the population grows and ages.

A patient suffering the deadliest type of heart attack — an ST-elevated myocardial infarction, known as a STEMI — needs help fast. Without rapid treatment, the patient’s heart can sustain massive damage and the patient may even die.

Percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, is the preferred treatment for a patient suffering a STEMI heart attack. In this procedure, also known as coronary angioplasty, the doctor inserts a catheter, or long narrow tube, into a patient’s artery to find and eliminate a blockage.

According to the American College of Cardiology, this procedure should be done within 120 minutes of first contact with EMTs. Every 30-minute delay in commencement of PCI increases the risk of mortality.

But the nearest PCI-capable hospitals — Stony Brook, Brookhaven and Mather — are at such a distance that providing treatment within that window of time is difficult at best; more frequently, it’s impossible.

“When you come off the street having a heart attack, what you need is to get to a cath lab as quickly as possible,” Dr. Alan Hartman, Northwell’s chairman of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery told RiverheadLOCAL last year.

“If you have a blocked vessel, you don’t go right to the OR, you go to cardiac cath lab and get that vessel open. That’s what we’re talking about setting up at Peconic,” he said. If the cardiologists determine that surgery — such as a bypass — is needed, the patient would be transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where Northwell has invested about $300 million since, transforming it into a tertiary care hospital — the only one in Suffolk besides Stony Brook.

“When I found out how critical it was to reach a cath lab quickly, I tried to get them build one in my garage,” Kanas joked last night. “So the next best thing was Andy’s hospital.”  Kanas, through his family foundation, has been an important benefactor of Peconic Bay, making large donations to help build a state-of-the-art surgical pavilion, which opened in 2009, and its ambulatory care facility in Manorville, which opened in 2013.

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Denise Civiletti
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.