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Public Health Council Approves Controversial Long Island Ambulatory Surgery Project

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The Public Health Council (PHC) on Friday approved an ambulatory surgery center that had been the subject of heated debate and highlighted a disagreement among state policymakers over the state’s role in restricting competition in health care.

The Long Island Hand and Orthopedic Surgery Center, LLC, proposed in 2003, provoked opposition from nearby Huntington Hospital, which had recently received state approval to construct a new $47 million surgical pavilion. The hospital argued at the time that surgical capacity already existed in the area, and opening another center would siphon away revenue needed to support the new pavilion and the hospital’s ability to continue to provide poorly reimbursed services, such as “24/7” care for trauma victims.

The project failed to win the approval of either the State Hospital Review and Planning Council or PHC, but remained in limbo because PHC never had enough votes to approve or disapprove the application. The continuing impasse over the project eventually led to a legal challenge by the applicant, which had been held in abeyance pending one last attempt at a disposition of the application at Friday’s meeting.

While no new information was brought to light, a combination of new PHC members voting in support and existing members who had supported the application throughout the process gave the applicants the required eight votes for passage. State Health Commissioner Richard Daines, M.D., cast one of the votes in favor of approval.

HANYS has requested the Department of Health review the criteria for assessing the need for new ambulatory surgery centers and give more weight to existing capacity in the area, and the impact on other community health care assets and needs.

The concerns over the out-migration of services from hospitals to physician-owned outpatient surgical centers and unlicensed office-based providers was one of the issues addressed in HANYS’ testimony on Certificate of Need and health planning, which was presented to the State Hospital Review and Planning Council on July 23. Contact: Karen Roach

Published September 15, 2008