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Port Jefferson Ambulatory Surgery Center

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Members of Mather Hospital’s leadership team break ground on a new ambulatory surgery center in Port Jefferson Station Nov. 22. Photo by Kevin Redding

With construction officially underway in a secluded lot on Route 112, North Shore residents are one step closer to an efficient and cost-effective surgery center that will provide in-and-out care to its patients while eliminating many of the hassles associated with visits to the hospital.

On Nov. 22, staff from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital and 19 community surgeons stood on the site in hard hats and broke ground on what will be the freestanding Port Jefferson Ambulatory Surgery Center in Port Jefferson Station. The outpatient facility will feature six operating rooms equipped to handle procedures in orthopedics, ophthalmology, pain management, general surgery, neurosurgery and otolaryngology. The project, which cost approximately $12 million and has been in the planning stages for about five years, will be far less expensive to run than a hospital, which means cost savings for patients and the health care system overall. It will also open up more space at Mather for patients that require a more complex procedure and a lengthier hospital stay.

“…at the surgery center, you seem to be able to get in and out more efficiently and that saves you personal time, saves money, and saves cancellations. It just makes the overall patient experience so much better.”

— Michael Fracchia

Those involved in the project said they hoped for the facility’s doors to officially open in the summer of 2017. For now, though, they’re just pleased things are finally moving forward.

“As we’ve been saying — at long last,” Kenneth Roberts, chief executive officer of Mather Hospital, said during the groundbreaking. “We’ve been working on this project for a long time now, so we’re very happy to see it finally getting pushed forward.”

During an indoor celebration after the groundbreaking ceremony, Mather’s Director of Orthopedic Surgery Michael Fracchia said he was excited about what the center will mean for the community.

“People love these types of facilities because they can get in-and-out service and it’s truly less intrusive on their lives,” Fracchia said. “If you have something done in a hospital, it’s always an all-day event, no matter what it is. But at the surgery center, you seem to be able to get in and out more efficiently and that saves you personal time, saves money, and saves cancellations. It just makes the overall patient experience so much better.”

Fracchia said the facility will be able to run more efficiently because it won’t need the sort of complex technologies often found in hospitals. A patient might need an intensive care unit or an MRI or CT scan, he said, and while these are wonderful technologies, they’re also expensive and require maintenance. By eliminating these systems, the surgical centers can treat more patients at a quicker pace.

“We want to provide more care,” said Brian McGinley, orthopedic surgeon and president of the project. “We can potentially do more while maintaining our inpatient surgery at Mather. The community will have access here, rather than having to go to Nassau County or into the city.”

McGinley said that while planning the project, the team interviewed many companies that specialize in developing ambulatory service centers around the country. They found a fitting partner in Pinnacle III, a company based in Colorado that has successfully facilitated the opening of comparable facilities nationwide. This will be the first Pinnacle III facility in New York State.

In a press release, Robert Carrera, the CEO/president of Pinnacle III, said the company is excited to partner with and assist the local physicians as well as Mather Hospital in bringing high quality and cost-effective services to the Port Jefferson area.

The doctors all agreed on the project’s mission: to provide cost-effective quality health care to as many people on the North Shore as possible.

“You come in here, you drive in, you get taken care of and you don’t have to go through all the hoops that you would at a hospital,” Port Jefferson-based general surgeon Nicholas Craig said. “The doctors have all been in the community for a long time. We not only work here, we live here, so you get taken care of by people who care about their community … and when you care about your community, you care about the people in your community, and that’s what this is all about.”

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An ambulatory surgery center in Port Jefferson Station will allow Mather Hospital to open up space for patients in need of extended stays. File photo from Mather Hospital

North Shore residents in need of a surgical procedure will soon have a new, more convenient option that eliminates the need for extended hospital stays, long searches for parking and unnecessary treks through vast buildings.

The New York State Department of Health approved plans for the Port Jefferson Ambulatory Surgery Center to be located on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station at a meeting of the State’s Public Health and Health Planning Council Aug. 4. The project, which is estimated to cost nearly $10.6 million, will establish a freestanding outpatient facility for surgical procedures with six operating rooms. John T. Mather Memorial Hospital will own about a quarter of the center, with 19 individual physicians making up 70 percent of the ownership structure.

Doctors involved in the plans, which go  as far back as five years, are excited for the possibilities the center will bring.

“There’s a massive need because it’s more comfortable for the patients, they’re less expensive to run [than full hospitals] and it’s less expensive for the hospital,” Port Jefferson-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Fracchia said in a phone interview. He called the center a “win-win-win” because of the benefits it will create for patients, insurance companies and Mather Hospital. Sending patients with ailments treatable at another site out of the hospital will also allow Mather more space for those who require a hospital stay.

Fracchia is serving as a treasurer for the project as well.

The Port Jefferson Station center will handle procedures in ophthalmology, orthopedics, pain management, general surgery, neurosurgery and otolaryngology.

“It’s a more comfortable, homey type of facility,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian McGinley said in an interview. McGinley is the president of the Port Jefferson Station project. Both McGinley and Fracchia stressed the improvement the facility will make in convenience and cost savings for patients. McGinley added that the center will be held to the same high standards that are associated with Mather Hospital. He said the centers tend to be cleaner than hospitals with a far lower risk of infections like MRSA.

Pinnacle III, a company based in Colorado that specializes in establishing ambulatory surgery centers nationwide, has assisted in developing more than 40 centers across the United States and will play a role in creating the Port Jefferson Station site. It will be the first Pinnacle III center in New York, and according to Pinnacle III President and CEO Robert Carrera, New York is one of the states with the greatest need for more surgery centers. Lisa Austin, the company’s vice president, estimated that the cost of procedures at surgery centers is about 33 percent less than at traditional hospitals.

Carrera, Austin, Fracchia and McGinley all speculated that ambulatory surgery centers could be a wave of the future in health care, especially in New York.

“Things have changed — you don’t see anyone building new hospitals,” Fracchia said. New York currently has 116 ambulatory surgery centers, though plans for more are popping up in addition to the Port Jefferson Station location.

Fracchia said he anticipates ground being broken on the site within the next week or so, and the goal is for the doors to open by the winter of 2017.