Authors Posts by Rohma Abbas

Rohma Abbas

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Convenient, cost-efficient medical care offers today’s patients flexibility

It’s midnight and you wake up with a stabbing earache. Or you’re suffering an indescribable stomach pain. It’s not so bad that you need to see a doctor now, but you’re still worried about it.

Twenty years ago, the next logical step would have been to trek out to the local emergency room —a feat both time-consuming and costly. Today’s patient, though, is likely turn to an urgent care center for medical attention.

A convenient middle ground between the ER and scheduling a visit with your primary doctor — where wait times for an appointment only seem to grow — more and more people are frequenting urgent care centers, where patients can be treated for anything ranging from sore throats to minor lacerations requiring stitches. And on Long Island, business is booming.

“There has definitely been an increase in the number of urgent care centers that have been opening up around the area,” said Dr. Gerard Brogan, executive director of Huntington Hospital.

North Shore-LIJ Health System, of which Huntington Hospital is a member, has jumped into the business of urgent care centers themselves. The system announced last November that it was opening 50 GoHealth Urgent Care centers in the New York-metropolitan area over the next three years.

The centers, which are open on nights and weekends, serve as a “portal of entry” into the health system’s 18 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient physician practices throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, according to a news release announcing the initiative last year.

“People are busy. They really don’t want to wait a long time to be seen and cared for. As long as the care is of high quality — whether it’s in urgent care centers or the ER fast track — it really doesn’t matter, as long as they’re getting the right care at the right time and it’s part of a coordinated comprehensive primary care program.” — Dr. Gerard Brogan, executive director of Huntington Hospital

Brogan said the rise of urgent care is a “recent phenomena” on Long Island, as much of the country has already seen this boom. At Huntington Hospital, the facility’s “fast track” area in the ER serves as an urgent care center, offering the same convenient hours centers do, but with the backup of an entire hospital. The hospital added this service to its medical repertoire about seven years ago, he said.

“The patients want that,” Brogan said. “People are busy. They really don’t want to wait a long time to be seen and cared for. As long as the care is of high quality — whether it’s in urgent care centers or the ER fast track — it really doesn’t matter, as long as they’re getting the right care at the right time and it’s part of a coordinated comprehensive primary care program.”

Convenience and an increased need in the marketplace is why urgent care centers have grown nationally, according to Dr. William Gluckman, of FastER Urgent Care in Morris Plains, New Jersey. Urgent care isn’t a new thing, though — the concept has been around for 20 years, and many of these facilities are mom-and-pop operated. “I would say we’ve certainly seen a large boom in growth nationally and locally in the northeast over the last five years,” he said.

A downside Brogan said he could see with the proliferation of urgent care centers is when patients use them in lieu of primary care, missing out on important health screenings, for example, “that would be very important to maintaining high quality, cost effective care,” Brogan said.

At GoHealth, patients of the North Shore-LIJ Health System stay within their network, meaning the various hospitals and doctors all communicate with one another, no matter where the patient goes for service, Brogan said.

Urgent care centers aren’t looking to be the next primary doctor, though. Calvin Hwang, of CityMD, which operates 16 urgent care centers on Long Island, said the company would be at 54 locations by this year, which include the five boroughs and New Jersey. Hwang, who is the first non-physician executive of CityMD, said the urgent care company urges patients to find a “medical home” in a primary care physician.

“We’re not trying to take over primary care groups,” he said. “They do feel that we’re taking their patients away and they’re threatened by us. We’re actually trying to make them more efficient. And the same thing with ERs. We’re trying to make them more efficient. We believe that urgent care has a role in the overall medical care system.”

Urgent care isn’t going away anytime soon — the market is growing, especially on Long Island, he said. CityMD will see more than one million patients this year, he said.

Asked how he sees urgent care transforming in the future, Hwang said he felt even the word “urgent” would get redefined, conforming to the needs of the customer. It could mean video chatting via cell phone with a doctor to see if something’s okay.

“The way the millenials [are] consuming health care is completely changing,” he said. “It’s going to evolve.”

Officials cut the ribbon marking the opening of Stop & Shop. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Stop & Shop is a go in Huntington village.

Stop & Shop on Wall Street in Huntington is open for business. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Stop & Shop on Wall Street in Huntington is open for business. Photo by Rohma Abbas

On Friday morning, store officials marked the grand opening of the grocery’s newest Huntington location on Wall Street, where Waldbaums once was.

Employees were all smiles as Fred Myers, the store’s manager, cut a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the business’s opening. He thanked the staff for helping prepare the store for its first day. He also presented a check for $2,000 to National Youth Empowerment, Inc., a Huntington Station organization.

“We’re excited to serve Huntington,” he said.

Offering a better selection of organic foods and sporting a sleeker, more sophisticated and flowing layout than some of its sister stores on the Island, Stop & Shop seeks to serve its patrons in new ways.

“It’s just what the customer wants,” Tony Armellino, the company’s district director said.

A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas
A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Stop & Shop also has stores in Dix Hills, East Northport, Northport and Woodbury.

Shoppers who came by to pick up some groceries on Friday morning said they liked what they saw. A longtime patron of Wauldbaums, Susan Collins, of Huntington, said the store looks great.

“I like the people who work here,” she said, noting that the company retained much of the Wauldbaums staff. She especially likes that the company preserved the Wauldbaums deli staff, “because they make going to the deli fun and not a chore.”

Angel Schmitt, another Huntington shopper, said she thinks they did a “great job” with the store design.

A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas
A look inside Stop & Shop in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“It’s so clean and it’s very convenient for me.”

This location was just one of six the company was expected to open today, according to Tom Dailey, of C&S Wholesale Grocers, and one of 25 stores to open in the greater New York region after the end of a five-week period.

Dailey said he feels it’s going to be a nice store, in part because of its size — its not too big or small.

“Grocery stores are communities,” he said. “This still feels like a store that’s part of a community where you’re not walking into a warehouse.”

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Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Suffolk County Legislator William ‘Doc Spencer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

A doctor and Democratic Suffolk County legislator is vying for another two-year term to lead the 18th Legislative District in a race against a Lloyd Neck resident and former congressional contender who feels he can do the job better.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) is facing a challenge from Republican Grant Lally in the election next week. The two men sat down with the Times of Huntington, Northport & East Northport in separate interviews earlier this month to chat about why they’re running for office.

Spencer touts a list of accomplishments in his four years in office, several of them health-related. He spearheaded a measure to stop companies from manufacturing energy drinks to kids. He worked to ban the sale of powdered caffeine to minors, and raise the age of selling tobacco products from 19 to 21. He also helped Northport Village obtain funding to update its wastewater treatment plant.

“I think that we’ve been able to start moving things in the right direction,” he said.

Lally, by contrast, was critical of the legislator at several points in the interview, and said taxes are a big issue in the district, something he feels he stands apart from Spencer on. Lally most recently ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) from his position. If elected, Lally said he would attempt to be more involved than Spencer.

“I’ll be more engaged,” he said. “He’s a very successful doctor. I salute him for that.”

Grant Lally photo by Rohma Abbas
Grant Lally photo by Rohma Abbas

If granted another term in office, Spencer said he would fight to go after pharmaceutical companies to support local anti-drug programs, claiming they’re part of the reason why so many people have become addicted to certain drugs. He also said the county is “terribly lacking” in outpatient solutions for those who do fall to addiction.

“I think we need more community support programs,” he said.

When it comes to crime, Spencer said while cops have made steady progress in making Huntington Station safer, the public still feels unsafe. He said he’d like to engage young people and help bridge a cultural gap between minorities and police, because minorities often feel the police aren’t there to protect them. He wants to add more bilingual officers and appropriately trained officers on the street.

“We have to capture the hearts and minds of these young people,” Spencer said. “ … I don’t think we can shoot our way out of this problem.”

Lally agrees there’s a crime issue in Huntington that needs to be addressed. He suggested doing so by having a stronger connection with federal law enforcement, coordinating resources to attack problems like gang activity, on a regional level.

“Gangs don’t just stop at the county line,” he said.

Spencer suggested tapping federal resources. He said he wants to compete with gangs to recruit young people — who gravitate towards them by societal pressure of not feeling wanted or belonging — to the good side. He said he wants to make it “unpalatable” for gangs to thrive in Huntington Station. “That’s how we change the culture.”

File photo

A 57-year-old Floral Park woman riding on the back of a motorcycle died after being ejected in a collision with an SUV in Northport on Sunday evening.

Mary Santry-Rosenvinge was driving a 2015 Toyota RAV4 east on Fort Salonga Road at about 5:35 p.m. and, as she attempted to make a left-hand turn into her driveway west of Sandy Hollow Road, her car struck a 2008 Harley Davidson motorcycle that had been traveling west, according to police.

Martha Garcia, who had been riding on the back of the bike, was pronounced dead at the hospital. James Losito, 53, the driver of the motorcycle and Garcia’s boyfriend, and Santry-Rosenvinge, a 66-year-old Northport resident, were treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Huntington Hospital, according to cops.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this incident to contact the Second Squad at 854-8252.

Harborfields High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Next week, voters in Harborfields school district will head to the polls to decide yea or nay on two propositions totaling $13.6 million in capital improvements bonds ranging from room renovations, classroom upgrades, a new field at the high school and more.

Residents of the district will vote on the projects from 2 to 9 p.m. at Oldfield Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 27. There will be two propositions presented for a vote. Proposition No. 1 pitches about $11.7 million in upgrades, encompasses infrastructure repairs, classroom reorganization and athletic facilities improvements, according to a district statement. If approved, bathrooms would be renovated, and damaged doors replaced. Some science labs would also be upgraded. The existing wellness center —which the district’s physical education classes and athletes use — would be transformed into a multimedia production computer lab, and a new, larger wellness center would be built by reconfiguring other rooms.

Also under that proposition, the district would upgrade the high school auditorium and gym. It would reconstruct certain athletic fields with natural grass. Permanent visitor bleachers would be added to the football field, four tennis courts would be renovated and a new wrestling room would be created.

Over at Oldfield Middle School, the science labs and the family and consumer science room would be renovated. Middle school fields and tennis courts would be upgraded and the locker rooms would be reconfigured and renovated.

Certain bathrooms in the school would be upgraded and outside masonry would be repointed. The gymnasium floor would be refinished and the bleachers would be replaced. The lighting system in the school’s auditorium would also be upgraded.

The first proposition also includes improvements for Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School and Washington Drive Primary School.

At the elementary school, upgrades include the installation of a new gym floor, replacement of curtains and risers in the multipurpose room, renovation of student bathrooms and the creation of a multi-sensory learning lab.

Outdated playground equipment would be replaced and the western parking area would be renovated and drainage to that area improved. The parking area would be expanded at the primary school.

Proposition No. 2, valued at about $1.9 million, is dependent on the passage of Proposition No. 1 and would include a transition to a synthetic turf field at the high school and using an alternative fill, such as Nike infill, instead of crumb rubber.

“The proposed capital improvement bond referendum addresses improvements to our instructional spaces and athletic facilities,” Superintendent Diana Todaro said, in an email statement. “The improvements would enhance opportunities for our students and community.”

About two years ago, Harborfields voters rejected plans for synthetic turf, which was the subject of a referendum.

“It is important for the community to understand that Proposition No. 2 is very different from the field proposition that was presented to the community two years ago,” said school board President Dr. Thomas McDonagh in a statement. “The field we are now proposing uses an alternative fill and addresses the concerns that residents had at the time.”

At a public forum earlier this month, residents offered mixed opinions on the propositions.

Many used the phrase “wants versus needs” when describing the difference between the propositions. Some residents said they felt the first represents genuine needs of the district, but Proposition No. 2 includes nothing crucial to the immediate needs of the district.

Chris Kelly, a Greenlawn resident, said he thinks both propositions are important to help Harborfields improve.

“It appears we are long overdue for upgrades,” Kelly said. “I really appreciate all the work that has been done for this and I will definitely be voting for it. The things on these propositions are very important, and I hope that this is just the beginning of a big turning point for this school to reach new heights.”

McDonagh said he supports both propositions.

“I am fully in favor of all the projects contained in proposition one and two,” he said.

The first proposition would carry an increase to taxpayers of approximately $76.20 per year, or $6.35 a month, for a home with an assessed value of $4,000, according to a district statement. The increase for the second proposition would be $13.08, per year if approved.

Victoria Espinoza contributed reporting.

A 28-foot female humpback whale was spotted floating in Lloyd Harbor on Saturday morning. Photo by A.J. Carter

A dead female 28-foot humpback whale was found floating in Lloyd Harbor over the weekend.It is the seventh large-sized whale to have washed up in New York this year — five of which were humpback whales, according to Rachel Bosworth, a spokesperson for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation foundation. And it could have been one of several spotted swimming in Hempstead Harbor recently, she said. The foundation is a nonprofit that operates the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program.

The whale died of blunt force trauma, a necropsy performed by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation revealed on Sunday.

“A cause of death has not been determined as of now but they’re going to continue an investigation to see if this is also one of the whales spotted swimming in Hempstead Harbor,” Bosworth said.

The animal was spotted 150 yards offshore Woodland Drive in Lloyd Harbor on Saturday morning. Town spokesman A.J. Carter said a resident called at about 10:30 to 11 a.m. reporting a “whale in distress.” The town harbormaster’s office responded and worked with the foundation, along with the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Eatons Neck.

Town officials towed the large animal over to the U.S. Coast Guard Station, where the necropsy was conducted. It’s general rule of thumb that a whale weighs a foot per ton, so the animal weighed about 28 tons, according to Bosworth.

“The biologists, interns, and volunteers from the Riverhead foundation completed an external and internal exam to document the whale, and also determine a possible cause of death,” Bosworth said in a statement describing the incident. “There is evidence of blunt force trauma on the right side of the whale’s body.”

By “blunt force trauma,” that could mean a large vessel that struck the whale, Bosworth said. But because of where the whale washed up, officials aren’t exactly sure that’s what caused the whale’s death — because the area it was spotted floating in doesn’t really have those kinds of vessels, she said.

Lately the foundation’s gotten calls, photos and videos from members of the public who’ve been spotting whales further west on Long Island — in the eastern Nassau/western Suffolk region, she said. The foundation had been monitoring reports of three humpback whales swimming in Hempstead Harbor and Bosworth said officials are looking into whether this female whale was one of them.

“We’ve been seeing a lot more activity and we think one of the main reasons is there’s a larger food source out here right now,” she said.

It’s not rare for whales to be in New York waters. It might just be that more people are out on the water and seeing them.

Last year’s whale figures pale in comparison to this year. Last year, two large whales were “stranded” in New York — meaning they washed up either dead or alive. There was a third in New Jersey that the foundation assisted with, but it doesn’t count towards New York numbers.

The foundation advises that it’s important for the public to remain at a minimum of 50 yards away from all marine animals, for the safety of the public and the animals. All sightings should be reported to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation by calling the group’s 24-hour hotline at (631) 369-9829. Photos and videos are also very helpful for the foundation to identify and document animals, and can be emailed to sightings@riverheadfoundation.org.

John Martin demonstrates how to use intranasal Narcan in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Northport High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions will be dedicating more than a week to raising awareness of drug and alcohol abuse by hosting programs to cultivate prevention and support recovery beginning on Thursday.

Known as the Northport-East Northport Recovery, Awareness and Prevention Week, the programs kick off at the Northport American Legion Hall on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., where families will gather to share their experiences with addiction. The Suffolk County Police Department will also provide Narcan training for the community.

The weekend will feature drug take-back programs at local libraries. The take-back campaign, manned by the village police department, will start at the Northport Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and continue on Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 to 5 p.m.

The county police department’s 2nd Precinct will also man a post at the East Northport Public Library on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents are able to participate in an anonymous drug drop-off, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at each police precinct, according a press release by the high school’s SADD club.

The club has partnered with the Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force, the office of county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), the village police and the county police’s 2nd Precinct to host these events.

Darryl St. George, a social studies teacher at Northport-East Northport school district, is a SADD club adviser. He became involved with the cause after losing his brother Corey to a drug overdose.

In an interview this week, St. George said he feels the week’s events, particularly the Narcan training and the drug take-back program, would make a great impact through helping train people in potentially saving lives and by taking drugs off the streets — drugs that put lives at risk.

“I think that this is very meaningful,” St. George said. “I think that this is one of those events that will have very real results.”

Ending on Thursday, Oct. 29, there will be a number of events at the schools in the district and this year, for the first time, programs will take place at elementary school level.

“Of course the message will be delivered in an age-appropriate way, but nevertheless the message will be the same — say ‘no’ to drugs,” he said.

The programs will culminate in a press conference outside the Northport Village Hall, where officials will report the results to the community.

The large numbers behind opioid-related deaths and Narcan saves justifies the need for these kinds of events, St. George said. According to a recent statement from the office of County Executive Steve Bellone (D), there were more than 250 opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County and 493 Narcan saves in 2014.

“This week, specifically, the Narcan training and the drug take-back program give me a renewed sense of hope that we are doing something that will have tangible results,” Tammy Walsh, a SADD adviser said in a statement. “The drugs we are taking off the streets could stop a kid from overdosing or possibly getting addicted. The Narcan training we are providing is empowering people to be in a position to save lives. We are still in this fight.”

For questions about these events, contact St. George at darryl.stgeorge@northport.k12.ny.us.

Huntington Town celebrated fall this weekend at the annual Long Island Fall Festival. The event, free to the public, is organized by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and spans Friday, Oct. 9 to Monday, Oct. 12. Festivities include a carnival, food courts, entertainment, vendors, animals and more.

Shaun McNeice. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police nabbed an East Northport man they accused of robbing five North Shore businesses — one more than once — within the last 30 days.

Shaun McNeice, 29, of East Northport, was arrested on Saturday after police said he robbed a Shell gas station on Commack Road in Commack and fled the scene on a bicycle at about 7:35 p.m. The employees at the gas station were not injured, and McNeice was apprehended a short time and found with the proceeds from the robbery, a skull mask and a loaded handgun, cops said.

Police said McNeice is responsible for a string of other robberies, beginning with a 7-Eleven on Jericho Turnpike in East Northport on Sept. 12 at about 11 p.m. Cops said he robbed the same 7-Eleven twice more last month — on Sept. 24 at about 12 a.m. and again on Sept. 30 at about 12:15 a.m.

According to police, McNeice hit another 7-Eleven, also on Jericho Turnpike on Oct. 2 at about 12:40 a.m., a Speedway on Jericho Turnpike in Commack on Oct. 4 at 4:45 a.m. and Finnians Pub on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood on Oct. 5 at about 10:45 p.m.

The man was charged with seven counts of first-degree robbery, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest.

He was held at the 2nd Precinct and was arraigned in 1st District Court in Central Islip on Oct. 11. He was held in lieu of $50,000 cash or $100,000 bail bond, according to online court records.

Attempts to reach McNeice were unsuccessful. A call to McNiece’s residence went unanswered on Monday morning, and attorney information wasn’t available.

DogFest Walk ‘n Roll Long Island takes place on Sat.

Giavanna DeStefano, flanked by mom Cynthia, and Harry, a golden Labrador retriever, meet at a training session in February. Photo from John Bentzinger

They say dog is man’s best friend, and for one Northport family, the adage couldn’t be any truer.

The DeStefanos are on a quest to raise money this week for Canine Companions for Independence’s DogFest Walk ‘n Roll fundraising event. The nonprofit group matches assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities at no cost to the individual.

It was through CCI that Northport 9-year-old Giavanna DeStefano, who is disabled, met Harry, a golden Labrador, in February. And life has changed significantly for the DeStefanos since he joined their family, according to Giavanna’s mom, Cynthia DeStefano.

“Harry cleans her room for her,” DeStefano said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “For me, I should say. She likes having him around. It’s like her little buddy that’s there for her.”

Harry is Giavanna’s friend and helper. The girl, who was born with a genetic anomaly called Trisomy 9 Mosaicism syndrome, is nonverbal and has global developmental delays and balances issues. For instance, if someone were to bump into her, she would fall and wouldn’t know to brace herself to cushion the fall. She can only speak about seven words.

The dog is trained in more than 40 commands, and can do things like open and close doors, turn light switches on and off, and pick up dropped items for Giavanna, according to John Bentzinger, public relations spokesperson for the group.

“But his main job will be to give her constant companionship, and he is a social bridge to her peers,” Bentzinger said in an email.

The dogs go through a rigorous training process. It costs about $45,000 to train each of the dogs, and it’s through the DogFest Walk ‘n Roll that CCI helps raise money to fund some of those expenses, Bentzinger said. Last year, the group raised more than $40,000, and this year, they are aiming for $60,000.

There’s a waiting list of about a year and a half for one dog. CCI owns 53 dogs in the northeast region, and the nonprofit owns more than 500 dogs nationally.

Harry is Giavanna’s companion. The two-year-old lab sleeps with her at night. When Giavanna returns home from school, Harry gets antsy awaiting her arrival, when he hears the bus. He picks up her stuffed animal toys around the room. He swims in the family’s shallow pool with her. He attends doctors appointments with her.

When his vest is on, Harry is ready to go to work, Giavanna’s mom said.

“He’s helpful for her,” she said. “He’s very funny.”

Through Harry, Giavanna is gaining a greater sense of responsibility. Giavanna helps her mother groom and feed him, take him for walks. Having Harry by Giavanna’s side makes her more approachable and gives her more attention, which she likes, her mom said.

“They see him, they see her, and it softens the whole ‘what’s wrong with this situation’ kind of thing,” she said.

Experiencing life with Harry motivated the DeStefanos to give back by fundraising for CCI, Cynthia DeStefano said.

“It’s a great organization,” she said. “Going through the program was amazing, and to see what these dogs can do, and how they adapt to each person’s needs, is an amazing thing. We’re blessed to have been able to do this.”

So far, they’ve raised $185 out of their $300 goal. To donate to the DeStefanos’ team, go to their fundraising page at www.tinyurl.com/nn3sn4y.

The fundraiser DogFest Walk ‘n Roll Long Island takes place this Saturday, Oct. 3, at Marjorie Post Park in Massapequa. For more information, visit www.cci.org.

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