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Catholic Health Services

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Catholic Health Services will be offering free health screenings for adults on its outreach bus in the parking lot of Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Wednesday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This community health outreach program will provide free blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, and glucose screenings; along with patient preventative health education and referrals as needed.

These free health screenings will be administered by a Catholic Health registered nurse. No appointments are necessary, insurance is not required and there are no fees. Open to all 18 years and older.

Questions? Call 631-928-1212.

The new front entrance of the emergency room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

With the decision of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to lift the elective surgeries ban in Suffolk on May 16, area hospitals will be able to resume an important aspect of their day-to-day operations. 

Hospital officials have praised the news because elective and emergency procedures are seen as a vital source of revenue for these facilities. 

James O’Connor, president of St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson and chief administrative officer of St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown, said it’s good news that both facilities can resume these important procedures. 

“It’s a public health issue, you have these patients that were holding off on these urgent and vital surgeries,” he said. “Those needs didn’t go away because of COVID-19.”

O’Connor said between them the two hospitals perform around 750-800 surgeries a month. Orthopedic, bariatric, spine and general surgeries are the most common. The hospitals have already started to bring back staff and furloughed workers have been contacted and will report back to work. 

Elective/urgent surgeries have been put on hold for nearly two months, in an effort to ensure there were sufficient hospital beds and medical staff available to handle the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The St. Charles president said that he expects the hospitals to be back “at full volume” in performing surgeries by sometime next month.

“After week one, we will be ramping up the percentage of surgeries that will be done,” he said. “The first week will be at 25 percent and then we’ll keep going forward.”

Stony Brook University Hospital has begun bringing back personnel to the Ambulatory Surgery Center, main operating room and other areas. 

“The hospital is looking forward to rescheduling cases to provide the care necessary for its patients and addressing their surgical needs as soon as possible,” said Carol Gomes, chief executive officer at Stony Brook University Hospital. 

On average, approximately 100-120 cases daily are performed at the hospital. Those include general surgery, orthopedics, neurosurgery, surgical oncology, cardiac surgery, trauma, kidney transplants, urologic procedures and gynecologic surgery. 

The return of these services will help hospitals who are in the midst of financial hardship from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.  

According to a report from the American Hospital Association, U.S. hospitals and health systems have lost around $50 billion per month on average during the COVID-19 crisis. From March 1 to June 30, the association estimates a total of $202.6 billion in losses. 

“Hospitals and health systems face catastrophic financial challenges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the AHA said in the report. 

The association also predicted more financial hardship as millions of people could be left unemployed and lose health insurance. It could lead to increased uncompensated care at hospitals. 

O’Connor said without those services health care systems would cease to function. 

At Huntington Hospital, a member of Northwell Health, officials have started to implement a daily symptom screening policy for all staff and developed a non-COVID care pathway for all elective/urgent procedures — from parking and presurgical testing to discharge. For the last eight weeks the hospital has been performing surgery on emergency cases. 

“I am confident we are prepared to safely take the next step with elective surgeries,” said Dr. David Buchin, director of Bariatric Surgery at Huntington Hospital.

Stony Brook University Hospital will also implement a number of safeguards in preparation for elective surgery patients. In addition to expanding on the use of telehealth, it will test all patients prior to surgery and have them self-isolate prior to operations. 

For St. Charles and St. Catherine hospitals, O’Connor said all patients will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test 72 hours before a planned procedure. 

County Executive Steve Bellone, center, SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart, left, and Chief of Department Stuart Cameron, right. File photo

Starting tonight, members of the Suffolk County Police Department will be wearing masks in public to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Initially, officers will be wearing surgical masks. They will also have N95 masks when necessary when they are interacting more closely with the public.

Wearing masks in public will become more common for everyone, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that everyone will be required to wear a masks in three days when they can’t be at least six feet away from other people.

“That is part of the new normal,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) on his daily conference call with reporters. “The intent is to stop the spread of the virus.”

Amid recent positive signs in the number of hospitalizations, Bellone said the county is having discussions about an eventual reopening of the economy, but the county is “not there yet. The guidance [about social distancing and keeping non-essential businesses closed] will remain.”

Bellone also announced the death of Detective Sergeant John Kempf, a 32-year veteran of the force who died after a battle with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. A member of the First Precinct, Kempf, didn’t receive the typical funeral and in-person celebration of his life.

With Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Chief of Police Stuart Cameron, Bellone watched hundreds of officers line up in front of their vehicles and offer a hand salute as the family and motorcade drove to the cemetery.

The experience was “very different than what the experience would normally be for his police family,” Bellone said. Bellone asked county residents to keep the families of Sergeant Kempf and all the other families who have lost loved ones during this time in their thoughts.

After a two day decline in the number of hospitalizations, the numbers climbed again for a second straight day, albeit at a slower pace than last week.

The number of hospitalizations increased by 22 to 1,630. At the same time, the number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds rose by 31 to 562.

The county currently has 622 beds available, with 94 ICU beds.

The county also reported 832 new positive tests, which brings the total to 23,523. The county has tested over 53,000 residents at this point.

New testing sites will be available, by appointment only, starting tomorrow at Wyandanch and North Amityvlille.

“The good news we like to report is that 174 people have been discharged” over the last 24 hours, Bellone said. That’s the highest number the county executive has reported since residents started needing hospital care to fight off COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency passed a sales tax exemption for manufacturers, supplies and distributors who are switching processes to make personal protective equipment.

“We want to encourage” businesses to provide the necessary protection for health care workers and first responders, the county executive said. “We are grateful to businesses that have already stepped forward to change their operations and adjust to their new environment.”

East/West Industries is making face coverings for law enforcement officers in the county, which will replace the surgical masks.

“Our goal is to give [officers] fabric masks they can launder and reuse,” Cameron said.

By the time of the daily call, Bellone didn’t have any update on fatalities connected to coronavirus.

Separately, the date for the collection of data for the census has moved from August 15th to October 31st.

Bellone welcomed the extension and urged everyone to fill out the correct information because “every person that is not counted means we’ll get short changed on revenue coming back to our state in the form of different programs that are available.”

Residents can access the census through my2020census.gov.

Catholic Health Services Clinical Trials

Meanwhile, Catholic Health Services is enrolling patients for two clinical trials to develop treatments for COVID-19. The health services group is participating in a Mao Clinic trial to use convalescent plasma donated by recovered COVID-19 patients. Convalescent plasma treatments use antibodies from people who have fought off the virus to treat those who have been infected but haven’t yet mounted an immune defense.

Catholic Hospitals are offering convalescent plasma at six hospitals.

The second study will use remdesivir. Gilead Sciences created the drug to treat the Ebola virus. It has shown some efficacy in treating other coronaviruses including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center in Roslyn and Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip are all participating in the remdesivir trials.

Potential donors must be over 18 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds. Patients who are at a high risk of disease progression to severe or life-threatening will receive this treatment.

The remdesivir study will occur over 10 days. On the first day, patients receive 200 milligrams of the drug, and on the other days, they get 100 milligrams doses.

Interested donors, who must be symptom free and fully recovered, and anyone else seeking additional information can contact Catholic Health Services at (855) CHS-4500.

Steve Cuomo speaks about the achievements of Rolling Thunder, one of the marathon teams raising money for athletes with special needs. Photo by Colm Ashe

By Colm Ashe

Last year Suffolk County laced up their running shoes and got moving in support of the first ever Suffolk County Marathon: Freedom Fest, an event dedicated to raising money for local veteran services.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and sponsors, including Catholic Health Services, organized the first ever 26.2 mile race last year, which raised more than $160,000.

This year, they hope to continue their success at the second annual Freedom Fest on Oct. 30 — but their vision has expanded beyond just aiding local veterans.

On July 21, Bellone held a press conference to announce the marathon, half marathon and 5k, that will allow registrants to run for their own charitable causes.

Though Bellone’s goal when organizing the event was to raise funds for Suffolk County veterans — a community of over 90,000 — he said he believes there are other causes worthy of a champion. He is welcoming anyone with a cause to join the event and raise money for their philanthropic mission.

Bellone does this with the hope that people will “utilize the marathon in a way that will raise funds for other wonderful organizations” in addition to supporting our veterans. Many teams came to the press conference to speak about their cause.

Among those who came to represent their cause was Team Liberty, an organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness about organ donation. Christian Siems, a 22-year old team member from Greenlawn, could be seen sporting the silver medal he won this summer at the Transplant Games of America — just 14 months after he received his heart transplant. Margaret O’Reilly, another Team Liberty member, could be seen holding a picture of her son, Stephen Valsechi, who passed away but saved the lives of four others by donating his organs.

Siems’ mother, Michele Martines, addressed the state of organ donation in Suffolk County and said even though New York accounts for 10 percent of the national waiting list for organs, we rank among the lowest when it comes to registered organ donors. She strives to help NY “come out of last place and go to first place.”

Another organization with a team in this year’s marathon is Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit for athletes with special needs. Steve Cuomo spoke for the team and brought up one of their members, Tysheem Griffin, who will be participating in the paralympics in Brazil this year along with one other teammate, Michael Brannigan.

Patty’s Pacers, a team raising money for the Patricia Keane DeGeorge Memorial Scholarship, paid tribute to Patricia at the event by telling her story. They said she was an example of how to triumph in the face of adversity, continuing on with her nursing degree even after being diagnosed with leukemia. A fighter to the very end, she died soon after receiving the news that she had graduated nursing school. Her spirit lives on in Patty’s Pacers.

A team representing Mothers Against Drunk Driving also came to represent their cause. Richard Mallow, the NYS executive director for MADD, said his team is hoping to change Suffolk County from leading the state in drunk driving incidents.

The Airborne Tri Team joined the event to continue their efforts in serving mentally and physically disabled war veterans. Their team is made up of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

The teams at the event are not the only ones bringing their personal passions to the race. Thousands of people have signed up to run in this year’s race in October. From people aspiring to meet health goals to teams of veterans running in honor of their fellow troops and veterans, all have stories to tell.

Visit www.suffolkmarathon.com to represent a cause, create a team, help contribute to veteran services, or join the race.

Catholic Health Services’ Patricia Hulmes lauded for her dedication and positive and caring attitude

Alan Guerci, president and CEO of Catholic Health Services, left, presents Patricia Hulmes, right, with the Living the Mission Award during a small ceremony at Catholic Health Services. Photo from CHS

Charismatic, caring and ambitious, that’s how Patricia “Pattie” Hulmes’ co-workers describe her. Hulmes, of Rocky Point, never thought her positive attitude was anything to fuss over, until she was awarded the Living the Mission Award in early July, by her co-workers at the Catholic Health Services.

As the office manager of revenue cycle at CHS, Hulmes oversees several employees. She joined CHS in 2007 and despite her workload, Hulmes always makes the time to ensure the well-being of those surrounding her and she does it with a smile on her face.

“Even dealing with all her staff and work, she took the time to [ask] ‘Are you okay? What’s going on?’” Paula Palazzo said, recounting a time when she began transitioning into a different position at the company. “She always has a smile on her face and she’s always there to cheer you up.”

Palazzo and Hulmes have known one another for seven years and Palazzo, like other individuals working alongside Hulmes, believe she is the perfect candidate for the award.

CHS created the Living the Mission Award several years ago with the goal of acknowledging employees for exemplifying the company’s values of respect, integrity, justice and excellence.

“I think in the day-to-day working environment, it’s so easy to become drowned in the minutia of the details, and we forget that behind all of those details are people. We’re not running through a field of daisies everyday, so there are things that we become so engrossed with,” Hulmes said. “We forget the people around us are drowning in that same minutia. So it’s important for us to treat each other with respect and to acknowledge people when we pass them in the hall.”

Saying good morning and greeting people throughout the building is second nature for Hulmes, so receiving the award was a shock.

“She’s quite surprised because that’s her way of life, and the sad part is, not everybody is like she is,” Susane Lim said about Hulmes. Lim is one of Hulmes’ system directors at the company. Within the seven months they have known one another, Hulmes is one of Lim’s favorite people at work.

To nominate an employee for this annual award, employees must select one of their peers and discuss why they embody the company’s values on an online application. A small ceremony is held for recipients of the award. CHS President and CEO Alan Guerci presented Hulmes with the award during the ceremony.

Although Hulmes does not deal with CHS patients, she helps patients receive affordable care. CHS helps members of the community that can’t afford traditional health care. The company helps find sources that can offset the cost of an appointment for the patients it serves.

According to Lim, the company has a variety of plans for those who can’t afford health care. The plans also take the individual’s income into consideration.

But working at CHS isn’t the only way Hulmes likes to give back to her community. Hulmes is also a member of St. Anthony’s Parish in Rocky Point. She reads at mass and also teaches religion to children preparing for confirmation. While Hulmes said she tries to “sit back and have things come to [her],” she checks the parish’s bulletin to see where she can help her community. The bulletin has led her to unique experiences like Clown Ministry, where church members or those who work at nursing homes or day care centers dress up like clowns and visit different parts of the community. Hulmes said dressing up can help people who struggle to communicate. The costume may help them relax and be more comfortable.

“We have different layers of relationships in life … but I think once we figure out how to go beyond that and love the community, to love the people we work with, to love the people we don’t know or haven’t met yet, I think that’s when … we can truly grow and evolve and make a difference in the world, and I think that’s what’s most important to me,” Hulmes said.

Hulmes’ attitude has made a difference in the lives of some of her co-workers as well, as she reminds her co-workers to enjoy themselves and that they can count on her if they need anything.

“She helps us remember that we’re all human and that we all need to laugh and we have more important reasons for being here,” Lim said.