Overwhelming support for PBMC expansion at public hearing

Andy Mitchell Peconic Bay Medical Center

In November, more than 15 patients visited the emergency room at Peconic Bay Medical Center with heart attacks, according to PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell. 

“They all had to be transferred to another facility, and in every case, the time delay resulted in likely permanent heart damage,” he said.

Mr. Mitchell was speaking at a site plan public hearing before the Riverhead Town Board Tuesday, where he stressed the need for a new cardiac catheterization lab at PBMC, which in January became part of the Northwell Health system.  The cath lab is part of an overall expansion of the hospital that was supported by several residents and building and carpenter unions Tuesday.

Peconic Bay Medical Center is proposing a three-story addition of approximately 54,318 square feet for use as future emergency room space, a cardiac catheterization/ electrophysiology suite and a new intensive care unit with two connecting bridges, a new heliport, new elevators and stairs to the existing 244,720-square foot hospital.

The proposal also calls for converting the existing medical/surgical unit into a sixteen bed intensive care unit (ICU).

“With your support, we’re about to change health care for the better,” Mr. Mitchell said.  “The cardiac cath facilities will be second to none. They will  be some of the best in the Northwell system, with some of the best cardiothoracic surgeons and  interventional cardiologists in all of downstate New York.”

Among them are Dr. Stanley Katz, the former chair of the cardiology program in the Northwell system.  He has bought a home in Riverhead and is heading up the cardiology department in PBMC, Mr. Mitchell said. PBMC has also recruited Susan Somerville, the president of Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, who will step down from that position to come to PBMC, Mr. Mitchell said.

The proposed expansion was supported by each of the speakers at Tuesday’s hearing, including the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, whose members wore bright green shirts and packed the meeting room.

“Besides the health care needs, there are a lot of permanent jobs and good-paying jobs,” said Tom Ferris of the NRCC. 

“We are strongly in support of this project,” added Richard O’Kane of the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council.

The carpenters unions also stressed the need for the creation of an apprentice program, which they said could benefit from work on the hospital expansion, and they said it’s important that jobs like this go to local companies.

Two speakers from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also backed the project, citing the need for both the medical facility and the jobs it would create.

“This will surely save lives,” said Dan Hilton of Wading River, a member of Local 25 of the IBEW.

Mike Lennon of East Moriches said he had a heart attack three years ago and was taken to PBMC and stabilized for the weekend, then transported up island on a Monday.

“If it wasn’t for that weekend in Peconic Bay Medical Center, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Mr. Lennon said the area needs a cath lab because the closest ones are too far away.

The nearest one to the East End is Brookhaven Hospital, according to Mr. Mitchell.

“You have my 100 percent support on this,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter told Mr. Mitchell. He said he will try to get a vote to approve the site plan application set for the board’s Jan. 4 meeting.

Caption: Peconic Bay Medical Center CEO Andrew Mitchell speaks at Tuesday’s public hearing at Riverhead Town Hall. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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