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Stony Brook University Hospital

Stony Brook University Hospital nurses and EMS workers held an informational picket May 16. Photo from Anna Maria Amicucci

Some employees at a local hospital are tired of tightening their belts.

Approximately 75 Stony Brook University Hospital nurses and EMS workers represented by the New York State Public Employees Federation held an informational picket and press conference May 16. The goal was to inform the community about a severe long-term shortage of health care workers at the hospital, high medical staff turnover and pay inequity.

EMS workers joined Stony Brook University nurses for an informational picket May 16. Photo from Jason Schmidt

Before the rally, PEF President Wayne Spence said the organization represents more than 2,000 nurses and EMS workers at SBU hospital.

“My members have been very patient in trying to get parity or close to parity with surrounding hospitals,” Spence said.

He said the hospital is a level-one trauma center transporting patients from hospitals where staff members make more than the average SBU worker. Nurses at St. Charles Hospital make at least $3,500 more per year, Southside Hospital in Bay Shore about $9,500 and Huntington roughly $11,000 more, according to Spence.

Even with state benefits, Spence said SBU health care workers’ compensation isn’t equal to surrounding private hospitals. According to the federation president, other institutions compensate employees to go back to school to achieve higher degrees and offer certain days off around holidays. A Stony Brook nurse can work three to five years without having off Christmas Day, he said. Spence said many rely on working overtime to make up the difference in salary and at times they are not able to break for meals, adding that medical staff working without a break can lead to crucial errors, such as making a mistake in medicine dosage. Many long-term employees are asking themselves why they are staying with Stony Brook.

“There was once a time where you stayed with the state system for the state pension,” Spence said. “But guess what? Northwell and other unions have now offered comparable compensation and fringe benefits that can now be comparable to the state. So, the state is not competing anymore.”

“Stony Brook hospital has always been a leader in cutting-edge medicine and research. It is time that it becomes a leader in staff recruitment and retention.”

— Anna Maria Amicucci

Paramedic Jason Schmidt said he independently compared paramedic salaries to other institutions like Northwell Health’s hospitals and found many emergency workers can make as much as $20,000 per year more than SBU workers. While Schmidt said it’s always been known that one can’t get rich working for state institutions, he said with health insurance costs increasing and pay freezes, many of his colleagues are working more than one job. He said he felt it was important for the workers to ban together and picket.

“It’s so frustrating this has been going on for so long,” Schmidt said. “We deserve more.”

Registered Nurse Anna Maria Amicucci said during her 18 years working at SBU she has been through furloughs and hasn’t received a pay increase in four years.

“We’re picketing to bring awareness to our state representatives about the gap in compensation between Stony Brook hospital and neighboring, competing institutions,” Amicucci said.

The nurse said she has seen a steady flow of new hires over the last couple of years receive their training at SBU and then leave for other institutions where they have been offered higher pay. Amicucci said in understaffed units the hospital has been paying more overtime to make up for the shortfall.

Nurses take part in an informational picket at Stony Brook University Hospital May 16. Photo from Renee Golde

“Stony Brook hospital has always been a leader in cutting-edge medicine and research,” she said. “It is time that it becomes a leader in staff recruitment and retention. A critical step in achieving that goal is putting its staff at par with our peers.”

Renee Golde, a registered nurse with the hospital for two-and-a-half years, said after working as an ultrasound technician, she went back to college to become a nurse. She said working for Stony Brook hospital is something she always wanted to do, and she wants to stay and bring about change to keep nurses at the institution. She said she hopes the administration will see that the employees want to stay and are just asking to close the salary gap.

“I stay because I love the people I work with,” Golde said. “I love my patients and I love being a Stony Brook nurse.”

Stony Brook released a statement through Kali Chan, director of medicine media relations at Stony Brook Medicine, when asked about the workers’ concerns

“Stony Brook University Hospital is supportive of our nurses, EMTs and paramedics,” Chan wrote. “We work every day to foster a positive work environment where all employees are valued and respected.”

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Suffolk County police 4th squad detectives are investigating a two-vehicle crash that killed a man in Commack April 17.

A man was driving a 2010 Toyota Corolla westbound on Vanderbilt Motor Parkway when his vehicle crossed into the eastbound lane and struck a 2015 Volkswagen near Shinbone Lane at approximately 12:50 p.m. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the office of the Suffolk County medical examiner. The driver of the Volkswagen, Lisa Campanella, 49, of Ronkonkoma, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was treated for serious injuries.

Both drivers were alone in their vehicles. Police are not releasing the victim’s name pending notification of next of kin.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the 4th squad at 631-854-8452.

Robert Verbeck donates platelets to Stony Brook University Hospital almost once a month. Photo from Cassandra Huneke

Because so many are in need of life-saving blood cells, a local teacher is doing all he can to help a hospital’s supply match its demand.

Almost once a month for the past few years, Miller Avenue Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Robert Verbeck has traveled to Stony Brook University Hospital to donate his platelets. Last Thursday marked his 114th time.

Though not quite squeamish, Verbeck said he feels almost wrong for talking about it, saying he doesn’t see much nobility in sacrificing a small amount of time to help save lives.

“It might feel self-aggrandizing if I say I’m out there saving people’s lives every couple of weeks, but people can die when they don’t have enough platelets.”

— Robert Verbeck

“I almost feel guilty, though at the same time, you know you’re saving somebody’s life,”the Shoreham-Wading River school district teacher said. “It might feel self-aggrandizing if I say I’m out there saving people’s lives every couple of weeks, but people can die when they don’t have enough platelets.”

Verbeck’s stepfather and retired NYPD officer John Eaton had also been a prolific platelet donor before he passed away in May 2008. Eaton donated approximately 24 times a year, close to the maximum a person can donate in 12 months, according to Verbeck.

“He just wanted to help people — that’s why he became a cop in the first place,” Verbeck said. “He just kind of kept donating. In a weird way, I don’t want to say it’s addictive, but you get a really good feeling from doing it. You keep coming back.”

Platelets, tiny cells in the blood that form clots and stop bleeding, are essential to surviving and fighting cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries. Every 30 seconds a patient is in need of platelets and more than 1 million platelet transfusions are given to patients each year in the U.S. Once a donation is given, the platelets must be used within five days.

“Stony Brook University Hospital never has enough donated platelets to satisfy our demand, therefore, we have to purchase the from other larger blood products facilities,”  said Linda Pugliese, a blood bank recruiter at Stony Brook. She said most of the hospital’s platelets are purchased from Red Cross. Over 10 years, Eaton donated more than 100 times, according to Pugliese.

“I understand people have their lives, they have their problems and not everyone can sacrifice their time, but If everybody donated a few times a year, we wouldn’t be so tight.”

— Dennis Galanakis

“Without them we couldn’t function,” said Dr. Dennis Galanakis, director of transfusion medicine at Stony Brook Hospital. “The problem with platelets is they have to be stored in a special way. They have to have all the tests that are required for safety. They only have a five-day shelf life, and it takes two days to do all the tests, so in practice, the shelf life is about three days.”

Verbeck was an efficient blood donator before he heard about platelets, and while at first he said he was skeptical, that changed when a friend of his was diagnosed with cancer.

“I started doing it, and just like my dad, I felt it was a good thing to do,” he said. “I was doing it five or six times a year. After my dad died, it was a loss, and not just my personal loss, but it was a loss with their supply — it was one less person donating. So that gave me the impetus.”

The entire platelet donation process takes about two hours. Machines take half cup of blood through one vein and processes it to remove platelets before returning the blood through another vein.

April is National Donate Life Month, so to join Verbeck in his quest to feed the blood banks, potential givers can call Stony Brook Hospital at 631-444-3662 or find out more online at stonybrookmedecine.edu and to schedule an appointment.

“Only a small number of people donate at any given time,” Galanakis said. “I understand people have their lives, they have their problems and not everyone can sacrifice their time, but If everybody donated a few times a year, we wouldn’t be so tight.”

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Suffolk County police 4th Squad detectives are investigating a two-vehicle crash that killed a woman in Hauppauge Feb. 18.

Patrick Chestnut was driving a 2014 Mazda eastbound on Nesconset Highway when he attempted to make a turn at Route 111 — his vehicle crashed head-on with a 2017 Honda traveling westbound on Nesconset Highway at approximately 12:15 p.m.

The driver of the Honda, Robert Sheehan, 73, of Lake Ronkonkoma, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries.  His wife, Lorraine Sheehan, 70, was transported to St. Catherine’s of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, where she was pronounced dead. Chestnut, 32, of Fairfield, Ohio, and his passenger Karma Spear, 31, of Bay Shore, were both transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a woman in Smithtown early this morning, Dec. 14.

Cynthia Wilson was driving a 2007 Nissan Altima northbound on Terry Road when her vehicle struck a 2012 Honda Accord traveling eastbound on Jericho Turnpike at approximately 1 a.m. The collision caused the Nissan to crash into a building, located at 305 Jericho Turnpike.

Wilson, 22, of Brentwood, was transported by Smithtown Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the Honda, Carol Katz, 55, of Dix Hills, was transported by Smithtown Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital with minor injuries.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the crash. The Smithtown building inspector was called to the scene to assess damage to the structure. Both vehicles were impounded for safety checks.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

Katlyn Lindahl, above left, and Jillian Dinowitz, above right, were honored for saving the life of Ryan Magill, at center, who was critically injured when he fell off a boat while giving sailing lessons. Photo from Jillian Dinowitz

A senior at Shoreham-Wading River High School was recently recognized as a hero for helping to save the life of her best friend over the summer.

Jillian Dinowitz snapped into action when she heard Ryan Magill screaming.

It was Aug. 9 and Dinowitz, 17, was in a powerboat on Moriches Bay giving sailing lessons to kids, ages 8 to 12, as an instructor at the Moriches Yacht Club. Her lifelong friend Magill, 17, who was instructing kids in another boat, had fallen overboard and was wailing and thrashing in red water. His left arm and pectoral region had been severely cut by the boat’s propeller.

Jillian Dinowitz, on left with Ryan Magill, are best friends and avid boaters since age 7. Photo from Jillian Dinowitz

Dinowitz, joined by another friend and instructor, rushed over to Magill, pulled him out of the water by his life jacket and got to work. As the boat sped back to shore and emergency services were called,  Dinowitz focused on keeping her friend calm and awake while Katlyn Lindahl, 18, made a tourniquet out of a towel and T-shirt. Dinowitz and Lindahl pressed it tightly against his blood-soaked arm.

“I honestly don’t know how I did it — it’s kind of a blur,” said Dinowitz, who admitted to feeling queasy at the sight of blood. “I would’ve done this for anybody in the water but just seeing that it was somebody so close to me, I kind of held myself together and just tried to stay strong for him. He’s the one that needed help at the time.”

Lindahl said while the two of them have had first aid training, their actions were entirely based on instinct.

“This was definitely a fight or flight thing,” she said. “There was no time at all really to think about what to do.”

Once back on land, Magill, a senior at Center Moriches High School, was emergency airlifted off the property to Stony Brook University Hospital. There, he underwent major surgeries. The doctors had to take a nerve out of his leg and transplant it into the damaged part of his shoulder.

They told him that if the girls hadn’t acted as quickly and effectively as they did, there was a good chance he could’ve died from blood loss or, at best, lost his arm.

“The difference they made was the difference between me being here and me not being here,” said Magill, who has since been slowly but steadily on the road to recovery. While he has trouble with menial tasks like tying his shoes and must wear a brace, he said he’s regained 50 percent of movement back in his arm and shoulder. “I’m doing very well, actually, and it’s thanks to Jillian and Katlyn. They literally saved my life and I’m in debt to them forever.”

His mother, Heather Magill, said her son has been incredibly positive throughout the entire experience and can be seen smiling every day no matter how tough things are.

“We’re in awe of him,” she said.

“After the accident, when we went to visit him in the recovery room, he said to my husband and me, ‘I love you guys … I need you to get me my phone, I have to call Jillian and Katlyn and tell them thank you for saving my life.’”

— Heather Magill

Magill’s and Dinowitz’s mothers, who have been best friends since high school, said the two teens have been inseparable since they were born. They joined the yacht club together when they were 7.

“I know in my heart there’s not a thing [Jillian] wouldn’t do for him in this whole world,”Heather Magill said. “It’s a testament to their friendship. We love her like family. After the accident, when we went to visit him in the recovery room, he said to my husband and me, ‘I love you guys … I need you to get me my phone, I have to call Jillian and Katlyn and tell them thank you for saving my life.’”

But for Jillian Dinowitz, it’s all about Ryan Magill getting back to his old self.

“When I visited him the day after the accident, it really hit me that something really serious happened, but it turned out okay and things are going to be better from there,” she said. “It’s amazing that he’s never gotten down about himself through all of this and has always been positive and willing to work hard to be where he was before the accident. It’s so inspiring.”

Nearly four months after the incident, on Nov. 28, the Shoreham-Wading River board of education honored Dinowitz, an Advanced Placement student and member of the school’s varsity tennis team, for her heroism, dedication and courage. As it happened in Center Moriches, Dinowitz said nobody at the school really knew about the incident, but it felt good to be recognized.

“Our true character often shines the brightest when we’re thrust into challenging circumstances,” high school Principal Frank Pugliese said of Dinowitz. “When that happened to Jillian this past summer, she rose to the occasion and helped to save a young man’s life. The entire Shoreham-Wading River community is so incredibly proud of her for her quick thinking and brave actions.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 7th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl.

Heather Lee and her daughter, Willow Lee, were walking westbound and crossing a parking lot entrance on the north side of Route 25 when they were struck by a Suffolk County Transit bus at approximately 6:55 p.m. The bus had been traveling eastbound on Route 25 when the bus driver made a left into a parking lot, located at 1175 Middle Country Road in Middle Island, when the crash occurred.

Lee, 27, and Willow, 4, of Shoreham, were both transported by Middle Island Rescue to Stony Brook University Hospital. Willow suffered head trauma and is in serious condition. The girl’s mother suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The bus driver, Thomas Lowitt, 63, of Islip, was not injured.

Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Section officers responded and conducted a safety check on the bus. The investigation is ongoing.

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Suffolk County Police arrested a Bay Shore man Nov. 27 following a motor vehicle crash that killed one man and seriously injured two others in Hauppauge early this morning.

Fernando Ramirez Jr. was driving a 2008 Subaru eastbound on Express Drive South when his vehicle struck a 1997 Ford pickup at the service road’s intersection with Route 111 at approximately 3:20 a.m. The vehicles then collided with a 2004 Infiniti that was traveling northbound on Route 111.

An occupant of the Ford, Daniel Granados, 31, of Islip, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the office of the Suffolk County medical examiner. The registered owner of the Ford, Richard Fischer, 32, of Dix Hills, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. The driver of the Infiniti, Anthony Bermudez, 26, of Brentwood, was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore for treatment of minor injuries.

Ramirez Jr., 30, was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Ramirez was admitted to Southside Hospital for treatment of serious injuries and will be arraigned at a later date.

All three vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.

Daniel Justino’s mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have arrested a man in connection with a stabbing of two men that occurred on Oct. 4 in Port Jefferson Station.

A man was walking on Jayne Boulevard at approximately 9 p.m. when the driver of a passing Jeep slowed down and yelled at him. The man ran to a nearby friend’s house as the Jeep followed. The driver of the Jeep and a passenger exited the vehicle and attacked him. Two male occupants of the house heard the commotion and came to the man’s aid. During the altercation, the two men who came to his aid suffered stab wounds. The man being chased was not injured. The suspects fled in the Jeep.

The victims were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. One man was treated and released, and the other victim remains in the Intensive Care Unit following surgery.

After an investigation, 6th Squad detectives charged Daniel Jusino, 20, of Centereach, with first-degree and second-degree assault. He was held overnight at the 6th Precinct for arraignment this morning, Oct. 6, at First District Court in Central Islip. The investigation is ongoing.

A 10-year-old student of William T. Rogers Middle School was hit by driver Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, while attempting to board the bus Sept. 15. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County police.

A William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured. 

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide  support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else, as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park Central School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in order to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so that the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack school district sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

The state department of motor vehicles has recently issued several safety recommendations for drivers sharing the roads with school buses:

* When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots,  must stop before  reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.

* Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the bus driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Drivers should decrease speed and be prepared to stop.

* When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or until the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you may proceed. *You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

* After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

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