Island Eye Surgicenter, led by Williston Park man, opens new facility

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Robert Nelson of Williston Park poses in front of Island Eye Surgicenter's new facility on Jericho Turnpike in Westbury. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Nelson)

By Paul Albani-Burgio

The new Island Eye Surgicenter, a state-of-the-art eye surgery facility in Westbury, celebrated its grand opening on May 12.

The center provides cateract and glaucoma surgeries, corneal transplants, cosmetic procedures such as eyelid lifts and other eye-related operations. Robert Nelson, the center’s executive director, called the opening a “great celebration” of “a tremendous investment by the center’s partner doctors in developing a premier facility for the region.”

“We were able to promote to the medical community the services and technology that we offer here,” Nelson, a Williston Park resident, said. “We have technology here that is not often found even in hospitals and are frequently offered first opportunities to bring technology to our patients from equipment manufacturers because of the nature and reputation of our facility.”

Though the opening celebration wasn’t held until earlier this month, the center opened for its first surgeries about nine weeks ago.

Most of the more than 100 people that attended the grand opening ceremony were current and prospective physicians and other center staff members and their spouses. Eye surgery industry representatives and officials from The First National Bank of Long Island, which funded the facility, were also in attendance, as were Paul and Doreen Ehrbar, the mayor and former mayor of the Village of Williston Park, respectively.

The Ehrbars are longtime friends of Nelson, who has lived in Williston Park for 38 years.

The first Island Eye Surgicenter opened 17 years ago in a 9,000-square foot facility in Carle Place, about a half-a-mile from the new location off the East Jericho Turnpike near the intersection of the Northern State and Meadowbrook State parkways.

The center began looking for “a bigger and better facility” about four years ago as it became apparent that it had outgrown its current space and would need a new one to accommodate increasing case volume as well as further growth over the next couple of decades, Nelson said.

The new facility has doubled the amount of operating space from three to six operating rooms. It also includes 15 pre-operative patient locations, 12 post-operative patient locations, an 81-seat waiting room and an education and training center that is under-development in the basement of the center.

“Our commitment has been to the community at large for 17 years but our new mission really is first and foremost premier ophthalmological surgical care,” Nelson said. “But then we also have a commitment to education and to research.”

The new center will increase Island Eye’s capability to train young doctors and do pharmaceutical and equipment research at the site. Nelson said the center has long been highly sought after by industry companies to do such research for product launches.

The center’s original location was the first facility in the nation to implant the Symphony, a new intra-ocular lens as well as the fourth — and the first east of the Mississippi — to perform femtosecond laser surgery for cataracts.

Due to the heavy amount of regulatory oversight involved, licensing the new facility took about four years, Nelson said.

“It’s a very heavily regulated industry,” Nelson said. “There were many, many inspections by the New York State Department of Health and, of course, local building officials and engineers, etc.”

The center was using four of its six operating rooms on its opening day, as called by its strategic plan.

The final two operating rooms will be open by July, well ahead of the dates called for by that strategic plan which did not call for all such rooms to be in use until the start of next year.

“We are way ahead of our projections for utilization because we’ve had tremendous support from physicians who previously could not get on staff here but who are now able to get on staff and we have capacity to accommodate,” Nelson said.

In addition to offering residents access to premier ophthalmological care, Nelson said, the center will have a significant impact on the local economy.

Nearly 50 physicians are currently working out of the center and Island Eye has increased its staff from 65 to 80 following the move, with plans to add 20 more employees over the next 12 to 18 months.

“We are a small business in one sense but we are a solid employer [meeting] the employment needs of the community,” Nelson says. “Our patients also come from all over the country as well as all over the New York area so they also support local business.”

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