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Hospital

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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.”

Splashes of Hope staff members pose. Photo from Heather Buggee

By Wenhao Ma

Splashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization based in Huntington that provides murals for medical and social service facilities to create welcoming environments that facilitate healing turned 20 this past month.

Years ago Heather Buggee, creator of Splashes of Hope, was just an art school student with a close friend who was suffering from Hodgkin’s Disease. While he was being treated, Buggee said the two friends talked about how positive imagery and an appealing environment would help patients relax and support the healing process while they stayed in a hospital.

Her friend did not survive the illness— but Buggee decided to keep their dream alive.

In 1996, Buggee created Splashes of Hope.

“Environment is very much a part of the healing process,” Phil Rugile, president of Splashes of Hope board said in a phone interview. “Splashes fills that gap, and if nothing else gives a child a few minutes of respite from whatever scary event brought them to the hospital in the first place.”

Senior mural artist, project manager, and daughter of Buggee Sarah Baecher said the organization was started in her mother’s basement. Now Splashes of Hope is located inside Coindre Hall, a mansion built in 1912 that is now owned by Suffolk County, fit with an office and art studio. They have been there for the past 15 years.

There are four artists working daily in the office, but Baecher said the nonprofit has more than 50 volunteers on Long Island and more than 100 nationwide. With the help of volunteers, Splashes of Hope has worked on projects across the country and world.

“To date we have ‘splashed’ thousands of focal points and murals in children’s hospitals across the U.S., local Veteran’s homes, shelters, psychiatric clinics, cancer centers, nursing homes, orphanages in Ukraine and hospitals in Paris, Cairo, Nicaragua and Rome,” Buggee said in an email.

To create murals, artists would first visit the hospital or facility to see how their creation would best fit in the room. Then they can either paint directly on the walls in the facility or on removable panels in their studios, which are later installed in the facility.

“We work with the staff in the hospital and see what kind of theme they need for patients,” Baecher said. “In asthma centers, we want something where you can breath, like an open sky with some birds flying around. In psychiatric centers, you don’t want stimulus. We do a lot of open water scenes.”

Other than painting for public facilities, Splashes of Hope also does murals for the bedrooms of children with life-threatening illness, with artwork that shows off their favorite things.

Ethan Chang, 13, is one of the children who received a mural , Chang has degenerative brain disease, and five years ago, he was granted a wish by Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Dave Gussaroff, who was Chang’s “wish granter” at that time, called Splashes of Hope and asked if they could do a mural for Chang’s bedroom.

Since then, Chang and his parents, Thomas and Ann-Marie, have been involved with the organization. According to his mother, Ann-Marie, Chang loves painting with Baecher and Buggee, and several of his paintings are now hung in the organization’s studio.

“I’m here because of [Buggee],” Ethan’s mother said in an interview, who is now a volunteer for Splashes of Hope. “She got my son interested. Then he brought my husband and me in. You can feel her love and passion for what she does and it makes you want to be a part of it. There’s a million places that we could have chosen and wanted to spend time and volunteer for. And we have done volunteer work for other organizations. But when you come here, there’s a different feel.”

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File photo

Winter weather has affected blood donations, and Port Jefferson’s John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, located at 75 N. Country Road, will hold a blood drive on Monday, March 7, to help.

According to the hospital, snow caused many blood drives to be canceled; so the community needs donors to help keep cancer and surgery patients, accident and burn victims, anemic patients, newborns and their mothers and AIDS patients alive.

The Mather event — which will run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Conference Rooms 3, 4 and 5 — is open to everyone and no appointment is necessary.

Free valet parking is available at the main entrance.

Donors will receive candy, McDonald’s certificates and a gift card to Panera or Target.

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A view of a healing garden at Mather Hospital’s new pavilion. Photo from the hospital

New facilities at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital aim to reduce infection rates and bring more doctors to the area.

The Port Jefferson hospital recently dedicated its new Arthur & Linda Calace Foundation Pavilion, adding more than 28,400 square feet of space to the north side of the hospital that is being used to house patient rooms as well as medical offices and conference rooms.

According to Mather spokesman Stuart Vincent, there are 35 one-bed rooms in the new pavilion. Rather than using the space to add to the hospital’s 248 beds, beds were moved from existing double rooms into the new pavilion, creating 70 new single-bed patient rooms throughout the hospital.

A view of a patient bedroom at Mather Hospital. Photo from the hospital
A view of a patient bedroom at Mather Hospital. Photo from the hospital

Taking away those 35 double rooms and adding the 70 single rooms means “for the first time, the majority of rooms at Mather are now single-bedded, which aids in both patient healing and in reducing the risk of infection spreading among patients,” Vincent said in an email.

The patient rooms in the new pavilion will be used for intermediate care and will each have their own medication cabinet and a computer for managing patient information, according to Vincent. The unit also keeps nurses close to patients, with nursing stations throughout the floor.

Joseph Wisnoski, CFO at Mather, said in a previous statement, “A single-bed patient room is no longer a luxury, but the standard for hospitals across the nation.”

That patient unit is located above two floors of new offices and conference rooms and a 180-seat conference center. When the hospital broke ground on the expansion project two years ago, officials said the office space would be used to combat a shortage of primary care physicians by training more of those professionals — who would then hopefully stay in the area — in a graduate education program that includes seminars and symposia.

The pavilion is Mather’s first expansion in more than a decade, and Vincent said it is the sixth expansion since the hospital opened in 1929. It was named for Arthur and Linda Calace, the primary donors on the project, who raised their family nearby and wanted to give back to the community. The Calaces and other donors combined to cover $5 million of the total construction cost.

Dr. Frederick Schiavone with emergency medicine residents in the Clinical Simulation Center. Photo from Melissa Weir

Stony Brook is sending some fresh faces to one of its neighboring hospitals.

Earlier this month, Stony Brook University Hospital heralded in a new partnership with John T. Mather Hospital that will transition the Port Jefferson facility from a community hospital into an academic teaching hub. But that doesn’t mean Mather will be losing its community-centric feel, hospital officials said.

The partnership began in 2012 when Mather officials started seeking advice from Stony Brook Medicine on how to establish a new graduate medical education program, and quickly evolved into Stony Brook Medicine’s sponsorship of the program. Mather welcomed its first class of 19 residents studying internal medicine in July 2014 and it has been all-systems-go ever since. And if all goes well, Mather said it aspired to reach 100 residents at the end of five years.

“It’s an investment in the future,” said Dr. Joan Faro, chief medical officer at Mather, who works as the site’s designated institutional officer for the graduate medical education team and initially reached out to Stony Brook Medicine to explore the partnership. “Our standards will be as high, or even higher, as they have been as they are passed down, and we are so fortunate to take advantage of [Stony Brook Medicine’s] expertise and guidance.”

Under the new system, Stony Brook’s graduate medical education program reviews Mather’s selections for residency program directors and then Faro sends recommended candidates back to Stony Brook. The candidates are then interviewed and authorized for appointments. When Mather residents graduate, they will receive a Stony Brook University Hospital crest alongside the Mather crest on their graduation certificates.

With Stony Brook Medicine’s help, Mather has instituted its own de facto recruiting system for promising prospects in the medical arena. By inviting residents into Mather, the hospital is not only ingraining its culture into the learners at an early stage, but it is also setting them on a path that could potentially lead to long stays working there, Faro said. And with the recent opening of a new 35-bed facility on the Mather campus, the time could not be better for residents to be learning on-site.

Dr. Frederick Schiavone, vice dean of the graduate medical education program at Stony Brook Medicine, teamed up with Carrie Eckart, executive director of the same program, to help transition Mather into an academic teaching hospital over the past year and said it could not be going more smoothly, as Mather’s staff steps up to new teaching roles.

“It’s a passion,” Schiavone said. “People like to teach, love to teach. It’s built into what being a doctor means. When residents thank us for helping teach them, you couldn’t ask for a better reward.”

One of the benefits of becoming a teaching hospital for Mather, Faro said, is that the staff are required to stay on top of the latest developments in medical education and training, which means that Mather’s patients receive advanced methods of health care delivery. Schiavone said the affiliation was ideal for Stony Brook Medicine as it allows staffers to train residents from the beginning as they are brought up throughout the system.

“We need to reach out to our community,” Schiavone said. “The focus is always to deliver the best health care in Suffolk County. Mather’s success is our success.”

And by putting collaborative patient care at the center of the model of delivering health care, Schiavone said Stony Brook Medicine was benefitting from having more residency spots to dole out.

Having residents under the same roof as Mather’s experienced medical professionals would only raise the level of care the community hospital provides by reinforcing the facility’s standards, Faro said.

Editor’s note: This version of the story was updated to correctly reflect the number of residents Mather has taken in as its inaugural class.

Huntington neurosurgeon touts procedure’s success

This diffusion tensor imaging shows the patient’s nerve, brain and other tissue matter surrounding the white mass, which makes it easier for surgeons to diagnose and treat their patients. Photo from Ericca Ardito

When Jean Noschese’s left hand started to go numb, she didn’t expect her doctor’s visit to lead to brain surgery at Huntington Hospital, where she met Dr. Robert Kerr, a neurosurgeon who had a new way of operating on the brain.

On Oct. 16, 2013, Noschese experienced a head-on collision while driving in Hauppauge. The car accident left her in need of several surgeries, including ones to repair her rotator cuff and replace her hip. But it was when she started losing sensation in her left hand, in 2014, that she went to a specialist. Noschese, who initially wondered if her issue with her hand was related to her crash, was rushed to the hospital after her hand specialist thought Noschese was experiencing a stroke.

But instead of a stroke, the doctors found a three-by-four-centimeter lesion on the right side of her brain that caused paralysis on the left side of her body. Her lesion wasn’t caused by the crash, but from Noschese’s breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. Noschese was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.

Doctors wanted to perform brain surgery the following day, on Dec. 22, 2014, according to Noschese,

“It’s overwhelming to hear that you need brain surgery,” she said.

A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain prior to the operation where Dr. Robert Kerr used Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito
A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain prior to the operation where Dr. Robert Kerr used Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito

But Kerr, who met with Noschese when she entered the hospital, reassured her and reviewed the procedure with her. A new brain-mapping technique, using the Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan product, involves several new tools, including a highly engineered tube that splits brain tissue fibers and allows neurosurgeons to access difficult and deep parts of the brain easily. The procedure also utilizes a fiber optic, high definition telescope that creates a “cone of visualization” that allows surgeons to clearly view all planes of the brain they are working on.

The technique also features a procedure called the myriad, which uses a blunt suction device that peels off tumors from dangerous or sensitive areas without damaging surrounding areas in the brain.

“Traditionally, surgeries for deeper regions actually involve destroying a certain amount of tissue to get to the target area,” Kerr said.

According to Kerr, in traditional brain surgeries, metal retractors are used to create a pathway so surgeons can access target areas of the brain. Doctors use the retractors to pull the edges of the brain apart and create a pathway.

Kerr said the issue with this technique is that, regardless of how careful a surgeon is, he or she may still push on these retractors, which widens the pathway the surgeon created from surface of the brain to the target area. As a result, the patient is left with a hole in part of the brain, which means the patient will take longer to recover from the surgery.

Stony Brook Medicine Neurosurgeon Dr. David Chesler said Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan procedure is only appropriate under certain circumstances.

“Tumors that come right to the surface, where they’re easily approachable, I don’t think there’s any benefit to using this technique, because the tumor is right there,” Chesler said. Chesler took a course for the procedure about two years ago. While he thinks the technique is beneficial, he does not think it is a be-all and end-all procedure for brain surgery.

While the procedure is minimally invasive, may decrease the chance of injuring the patient during the operation and allows surgeons to approach lesions or blood clots, Chesler said there are some downsides to the technique. He said that the technology of this technique is not new, but simply creates a new system that makes it easier for surgeons to implement.

Additionally, minimally invasive procedures double or triple the length of an operation, depending on the surgeon and the nature of the surgery. Surgeons who may not be very experienced may leave parts of lesions or tumors and blood clots behind because of limited visualization.

A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain has been removed with the use of Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito
A large mass is located in the left hemisphere of the brain has been removed with the use of Synaptive Medical’s BrightMatter Plan. Photo from Ericca Ardito

Surgeons can only see what is at the end of the tube, which is around the diameter of a dime.

Kerr said this procedure will decrease patients’ recovery time. Patients are usually tired following the surgery and require extensive amounts of rest before they are discharged from the hospital. Noschese, however, was alert and speaking two hours after the surgery. Not only did she regain sensation in her hand, but she was also able to grab and hold onto a variety of objects.

Chesler, like Kerr, said patients who receive traditional surgeries for deep-seated lesions or blood clots can do well. He said his patients’ deficits were more related to the “structures involved with the tumor,” as opposed to the approach used. Chesler has seen both good and bad outcomes from this technique

According to Kerr, few surgeons are using this technique.

“Neurosurgeons are skeptics and slow adopters and I think that’s appropriate,” Kerr said, explaining why more surgeons may stick to traditional brain surgery practices.

While Chesler said the procedure should be used for the right case and with an experienced surgeon, he said staff are looking to adopt this technique at Stony Brook University Hospital. Chesler, who does both pediatric and adult neurosurgery, said he is simply looking for the right case. Recently he hasn’t come across a case that calls for the technique.

Doctors must demonstrate the procedure and illustrate its benefits when introducing the technique to the hospital. Hospitals need to invest in the procedure for a surgeon to officially implement it.

Although Chesler said there are other systems that surgeons can use to reach a similar goal, Kerr said the technique is a glimpse into the future of this type of surgery.

“I think this technology reflects the future of neurosurgery and accessing deep-seated lesions in a kinder, gentler, more precise way,” Kerr said. “I think this is representing a future paradigm shift in the way that brain surgery is done, and I think that we will see many more adopting this in a very short period of time.”

Stony Brook’s 100,000th baby Luca Michael Picarella cries in his mother’s arms at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

It’s a boy. It’s also a major milestone.

Katie Picarella of Rocky Point was wheeled into the room with her new bundle of joy and her husband Mike and daughter Gianna, 5, to celebrate the birth of Stony Brook Hospital’s 100,000th baby, Luca Michael Picarella on Thursday, Aug. 20. And by the time she was wheeled out, she had much more than a new member to her family.

The hospital presented blue cupcakes surrounded several pink cupcakes that spelled “100K,” in the Stony Brook University Hospital’s lobby in celebration of the event.

Todd Griffin, chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, said he expected Katie Picarella to give birth near the end of August, and he was right. Attending OB/GYN and former Stony Brook student Julie Welischar delivered Luca the morning of Monday, Aug. 17.

Until a week ago the Picarella family was unaware of the news that Stony Brook was expecting its 100,000th birth.

Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley
Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

“A friend of ours told us [that they] had been following this,” Mike Picarella said. “I started looking at it and [the friend] said, ‘you guys are getting close. It’d be funny if you guys are the couple.’”

But the expecting father said he was still surprised when the doctors informed him that his newborn son was the 100,000th baby.

The family didn’t just leave with their new baby boy, they also left with a gift basket, which awarded the Picarella family with $10,000 scholarship from the Island Federal Credit Union, a $2,500 scholarship toward tuition at the North Shore Montessori School, a $500 shopping spree among other gifts for the parents and their newborn.

Luca’s older sister Gianna, who was also delivered at Stony Brook, was also awarded with a brand new American Girl doll.

“Truly from the bottom of our hearts and all of our family’s hearts, we greatly appreciate it,” Mike Picarella said.

The entire Picarella family said they were thankful for the gifts and shocked by the news that they were the couple who birthed the 100,000th baby.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen to us,” Katie Picarella said when speaking to the media. According to Picarella, the birth was scheduled for Friday after doctors realized Picarella’s baby would come before the end of August. But Picarella rescheduled the C-section delivery date because she wanted to have enough time to recover in order to attend her daughter’s Kindergarten screening.

The family of four also had the opportunity of meeting Jeff Solomon, who was the first baby born at Stony brook University Hospital on May 28, 1980 at 8:15 a.m. Solomon’s father Bob Solomon and step-mother Hope also attended the conference and met the family.

Before the family prepared to go home, Griffin highlighted the importance of the birth.

“For years the number of births on long island have been going down,” Griffin said. “We’re actually starting to see in the last year or two that the births have been going up.”

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A makeshift memorial is erected at the scene of the fatal Cutchogue crash. Photo by Phil Corso

Tragedy hit close to home over the weekend — countless lives were shattered when an alleged drunk driver slammed into a limousine carrying a group of eight young women, killing four who hailed from our own North Shore communities.

Saturday’s Cutchogue crash captivated communities near and far. Those who knew the women, and even those who didn’t, mourned, as the crash sent shock waves across the Island.

Brittney Schulman, Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli and Amy Grabina were friends, daughters, girlfriends, sisters and young women just starting their adult lives. Tragic doesn’t even begin to explain what happened on that Cutchogue road.

But the women weren’t alone, and the surviving four women, who remain hospitalized as of Monday, need our support.

At a press conference on Monday, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota told a crowd of reporters, many of whom came from affiliate stations and out-of-town papers, to be reasonable, in light of a recent incident in which a member of the press entered the hospital in an attempt to see one of the survivors.

“We have four who survived, who certainly have suffered horrible, horrible trauma,” Spota said. “Not only bodily trauma, but certainly mentally. And we have people — reporters — who are trying to sneak in to talk to these young women. I just think that we really should — let’s all think about it and let’s be reasonable here.”

We find these actions disrespectful to the victims and survivors and their families and do not stand behind them. As journalists, we understand the responsibility news organizations have to inform the public about events such as this, but sneaking into a hospital room is excessive, and it is not right to serve a readership at a victim’s expense.

As a community newspaper, we are protective of the neighborhoods we cover because we live here. When we get word of car crashes, many of us have to wonder if a loved one was involved. What happened on Saturday could have happened to any one of us.

To the women recovering, the families affected and the communities trying to come to terms with these losses, we will still be here to listen if and whenever you are ready to speak. Our thoughts are with you.

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