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Huntington Hospital

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Get a flu shot now. 

While timing a flu shot can seem like timing the stock market — buying or selling a stock now might mean missing out on gains later — it’s not. A flu shot generally provides immunological coverage against the flu from about four weeks after the shot until six months later.

With a flu season that doesn’t follow a yearly calendar, residents sometimes try to balance between minimizing the possible effect of exposure to the flu in the next few weeks with exposure to the flu in the middle of the spring.

“It makes most health professionals very uncomfortable when people [suggest holding off on protection through the spring] as a reason to delay immunization, as it takes four weeks for protective antibodies to mature,” said Michael Grosso, Chief Medical Officer at Huntington Hospital. Influenza season can begin as early as November and sometimes earlier, so “any time now would be the right time.”

Medical professionals urged people to be even more proactive about getting a flu shot this year, as the pandemic continues to lurk in the shadows, on door knobs, and within six feet of an infected individual.

When people contract the flu along with other respiratory illnesses, the combination, as people might expect, can cause significant sickness.

“The novel coronavirus is just that, it’s novel,” Grosso said. “We don’t know exactly how it will interact with influenza. We do have significant prior experience with concurrent infections with other respiratory viruses. Individuals coinfected with one or more serious respiratory viruses frequently get sicker.”

That’s the case for both children and adults, Grosso added.

Getting an influenza vaccine could also reduce the confusion that will occur if people experience flu-like symptoms, which are also a hallmark of COVID-19 cases.

“Getting as much of the population immunized as possible is even more important than at other times,” Grosso said.

Each year, somewhere between 150,000 to 180,000 people are hospitalized from the flu and the death toll can range between 12,000 to 61,000 people per year in the U.S.

Doctors recommended that people who are 65 and older get a quadrivalent flu shot, which includes an additional influenza B strain.

In a trial of 30,000 people over 65, people who received the quadrivalent shot had 24% fewer illnesses compared to those who got the standard shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Susan Donelan, Medical Director of Healthcare Epidemiology at Stony Brook Medicine, said the side effects of the flu shot include an uncomfortable arm for a few days, a low grade fever and fatigue.

“The vast majority of people can easily manage the minor side effects for a day or two with Tylenol or Ibuprofen or a cold pack on their arm,” Dr. Donelan said.

Doctors said practices such as wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing, which are designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, are also helpful in cutting down on the transmission of the flu.

Those measures will only help if residents exercise them correctly. Masks that fall below the nose of the wearer, which may make it easier to breathe, are not as effective at reducing the spread of these viruses, Dr. Donelan said.

 

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Dr. Nick Fitterman said they wouldn't necessarily endorse a COVID-19 vaccine immediately without first getting all the information. Photo from Huntington Hospital

Huntington Hospital won’t automatically endorse a COVID-19 vaccine, even if it receives approval from the federal government.

The hospital plans to evaluate the data from the vaccine’s phase 3 trials to ensure that the vaccine is safe and effective.

“We’ll see if things are starting to uptick long before it’s more obvious to the public.”

— Nick Fitterman

“It’s part of our oath, ‘Do no harm,’” said Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director at Huntington Hospital. “If we don’t think the safety is there, I will scream it from the rooftops. It has to be a combination of safety and efficacy.”

Fitterman said at least seven vaccines are in phase 3 trials, with over 250 experimental vaccines in the works in total.

Fitterman was pleased to see that nine vaccine makers signed a pledge to uphold medical standards and not succumb to governmental pressure for rapid approval.

At this point, Fitterman would only take a vaccine after publication of the evidence from the clinical trials.

Once he is convinced that a vaccine is safe and effective, he said he would feel an urgency to take it as a health care worker.

“If you take care of people who are high risk, you’re going to need to take it,” Fitterman said.

The hospital would likely have the same policy for a COVID vaccine that it does for a flu vaccination: if workers choose not to get a vaccine, they will be required to wear a mask.

For the flu, hospital workers with purple badges on their name tags have had a flu shot.

At this point, it is unclear how long a COVID-19 vaccination might provide potential protection. Like tetanus or mumps, no vaccine wards off infection indefinitely, which means people will likely require boosters.

“I’m more worried about people getting complacent because they have been vaccinated,” Fitterman said.

Years down the road, the virus could return.

Asked whether those people who have antibodies for the virus would need a vaccine, Fitterman highlighted a recent case in Hong Kong. Published in the journal Lancet, doctors shared the story of one patient who contracted COVID-19 and then tested positive again.

The virus currently has several strains, so a vaccine might provide greater protection than natural antibodies against a single type of COVID-19.

The man who contracted the virus twice had antibodies that “didn’t protect him from another infection,” but he did not have any symptoms during the second positive test.

An infection in which a person develops antibodies could “protect you from the disease, but it doesn’t [necessarily] protect you from getting infected again,” Fitterman said.

A health care worker in particular would benefit from a vaccine that prevented infection from numerous strains to prevent that worker from spreading a disease to which he or she would likely be exposed during the course of any increase in cases.

With the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 overlapping with the flu, Fittterman strongly urged residents to get a flu shot, which would help prevent the virus from overwhelming a health care system that might again face an influx of hospitalizations from the coronavirus.

“It’s part of our oath, ‘Do no harm.'”

— Nick Fitterman

Huntington Hospital recently started making the flu vaccine available to frontline workers and urged people to get flu shots this month. He reminded people that the vaccine only works two weeks after an injection after the immune system has had a chance to recognize the virus.

Fitterman is encouraged by the range of current vaccines in trials for COVID-19, including those that use messenger RNA.

Fitterman said Huntington Hospital is prepared for a potential second wave of COVID-19. He monitors the data every day.

“We’ll see if things are starting to uptick long before it’s more obvious to the public,” Fitterman said.

As a part of Northwell Health, Huntington Hospital has stockpiled personal protective equipment. Northwell also gave Huntington $4 million to be prepared, which includes having more ventilators, dialysis machines, and negative pressure rooms ready. Huntington can handle 10% more than the number of patients who needed medical help in the spring.

“We are beyond ready [but we] hope we don’t have to exercise any of that,” Fitterman said.

Fitterman urged those people who need other hospital services, such as cancer screenings, to come to the hospital.

When the spring surge for COVID-19 occurred, the hospital told people who were dealing with nonemergency situations not to come to the hospital because they needed the beds, and not because they felt patients would be exposed to the virus.

Indeed, after the viral numbers declined, the hospital tested its staff for the presence of the antibodies. They found that 9% of the staff had antibodies to the virus, which is below the 14% for the surrounding community.

“What we did works,” Fitterman said, which included PPE and procedures to protect the staff. The hospital is a “safe place to be,” he said.

In monitoring the daily changes in infection in Suffolk County, Fitterman said positive tests have been rising and falling during the last few weeks. So far, he has not seen an increase in hospitalizations.

“Our numbers continue to go down,” Fitterman said, as the hospital had three people with COVID-19 as of Sept. 8.

Photo from Northwell Health

Empire Subaru of Huntington has once again selected Huntington Hospital as the recipient of Subaru’s Share the Love program. The dealership donated more than $50,000 to Huntington Hospital’s award-winning neurosurgery department. This is the second year the dealership has donated to the hospital. Pictured at the check presentation on Aug. 7, from left, are Dr. Robert Kerr; Empire Subaru Sales Manager Vinny Rizzo; Vice Chair of Huntington Hospital’s board Thomas Lederer; Empire Subaru General Manager Gary Farley; and Huntington Hospital’s Executive Director Dr. Nick Fitterman.

Stony Brook University Hospital

Suffolk hospitals are slowly getting back to some normalcy as the number of COVID-19 patients continue to decrease on Long Island. As hospitals have gotten past the peak of the pandemic, they are now facing the challenge of reassuring the public that their facilities are safe. 

“I think it is incredibly important that people feel comfortable and safe whether it’s seeing their personal physician or coming to the hospital,” said Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director, Department of Infectious Diseases, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. 

Nancy Axelrod, of Old Field, braved post-COVID Huntington Hospital to get knee replacement surgery.
Photo from Axelrod

Donelan said SBU Hospital has implemented a number of protocols to ensure worker and patient safety. For individuals that are going to outpatient centers and physician offices, they are advised to remain in their vehicles and complete their normal check-in process using their cellphones. Waiting rooms are arranged to allow for optimal social distancing. 

The medical director said they hope to quell any fears patients may have. 

“Patients shouldn’t suspend any routine health procedures — I think it is a safe and a good time to come back,” Donelan said. 

For those that come to the hospital for a procedure, patients will have a conversation with a triage nurse over the phone before they come in. They will undergo temperature checks and screened for COVID symptoms. Patients suspected of having coronavirus are separated from other patients. 

“We’ve increased our cleaning frequency, we want to make sure our patients and workers are entering a safe environment,” Donelan said. 

Like other facilities, SBU Hospital has made adjustments to its visitor policy in an effort to limit potential exposure. Currently, only one visitor can visit a patient and are only allowed a three-hour time window. 

Donelan said the feedback they’ve gotten from staff and patients on their safety measures has been positive. 

“We’ve been pleased with the feedback, they have appreciated our aggressive approach and attention to detail,” she said.

Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital, said they are trying to get word out to the public that its facilities are safe and stressed the need for individuals to seek out medical care. 

“March and April, we were all hands on deck,” he said. “We went from having around 300 COVID-19 cases to now only having six.”

Fitteram understands the public concerns of returning but said they have created essentially a “hospital within a hospital,” where COVID patients are isolated in another section of the building away from non-COVID patients. 

“COVID patients are assigned nurses and doctors that only treat them, they do not see any other patients,” Fitterman said. 

The hospital has implemented thermal cameras used to help check temperatures of staff, patients and visitors. Workers are screened daily for COVID symptoms. Fitterman said that they are limiting visiting hours and allow only one visitor per patient.  

“It is important not only to protect the patients but to protect our staff as well,” he said. 

Nancy Axelrod, of Old Field, said she can attest to the hospital’s safety protocols. With elective surgeries allowed again, Axelrod was able to get right knee replacement surgery last month. She underwent left knee replacement surgery right before COVID hit Long Island. 

“It was something I needed to get done, I’ve suffered from severe arthritis,” she said. “From talking to the doctors, I felt strongly that I was safe.”

Huntington Hospital had about 1,000 surgeries that were put on hold. In an effort to keep patients safe, they have installed a separate “pathway” for them when they get to the hospital. 

Axelrod said she had to go through a number of tests and screening before the surgery. 

“I would tell people not to put off seeing your doctor or getting an important surgery,” she said. “The time to do it is now — I feel that the hospital is doing an awful lot to ensure patient safety.”

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. 

A May 21 car parade was as classic as it gets.

Classic car owners from various clubs on Long Island came together to drive pass Huntington Hospital to show their gratitude for health care workers battling COVID-19. Hospital employees and neighbors had the chance to see scores of classic cars going pass the facility located on Park Avenue.

Before the parade, the car owners met at Mill Dam Park at 6 p.m. where the drivers donated food to Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares. Approximately, 1,000 pounds of food and $680 in funding was collected for the nonprofit that provides food for local residents experiencing food insecurity.

Organizations involved in the parade included Vintage Chevrolet Club of America, Mopar Club of Long Island, Classic Car Club of America, Long Island Corvette Owners Association, Mustang Shelby Club of Long Island, Model A Ford Club of Long Island, Long Island Street Rods, Antique Automobile Club of Long Island, Thunderbird Club of Long Island and Cap-A-Radiator Co.

Also on hand May 21 were residents who every day at 6:45 p.m. show up at the hospital entrance to cheer for the health care workers around the time shifts change.

Scott November leaves the rehabilitation center with his wife, Shelley, at the wheel. Photo from the November family

One Northport resident’s experience with the coronavirus led him to the brink of death, and now that he’s back at home, he’s beyond grateful for those who nursed him back to health.

The Novembers with their children and grandchildren. Photo from the November family

Scott November, 66, was Huntington Hospital’s first ventilated patient who has survived and recovered from COVID-19. After a journey that took him from at first not being able to be tested for the virus and trying to recoup at home, to a hospital visit that led to him being on a ventilator, November has now put 10 days of rehabilitation and more than a week of at-home quarantine behind him. As of April 24, he was finally able to see family members, even though it was from a distance.

“I was really exceptionally well and lovingly cared for in the hospital,” November said.

The father and grandfather, who is a purchasing and global operations manager for a brass fitting company in Brooklyn, said early in March he attended parties for his grandchildren. He said he was feeling fine, moving tables and kissing and hugging everyone.

The next day he went to work and felt good at the office and driving home at the end of the workday. However, when he arrived home and sat down for dinner, he began to shake violently. He had the chills, and when he took his temperature, he had a fever of 100.6 degrees. He laid down in the guest room and decided to stay in there until he got better as he didn’t want to infect his wife, he said.

Despite trips to two different urgent care facilities, he wasn’t tested for the coronavirus at the beginning of his illness as he wasn’t presenting with all the symptoms, and he was just given flu tests which came out negative.

November, who has psoriatic arthritis and diabetes, said looking back he understands why he wasn’t tested at the time as there weren’t enough tests available. When he made a second trip to one of the urgent care locations, he was given an X-ray to see if he had pneumonia. While the health care professionals there read it as negative, it was sent out to a radiologist who noticed spots on his lungs and saw pneumonia.

November said he took his health in his own hands and spoke with an administrator at the urgent care and his call was passed on to one of the heads of the chain, who went through his information and saw the radiologist’s report. It was then the Northport resident was told to get tested for COVID-19. He was able to get the test March 16, but that night his symptoms worsened. His wife called his primary physician where she was instructed to call an ambulance.

EMT personnel soon showed up in full hazmat uniforms, and he was brought to the emergency room at Huntington Hospital. He said the new emergency center has individual rooms with doors so he was able to be isolated as he was in a room for two days until it was determined he should be taken to the critical care unit and be put on a ventilator. Though, he said, he has no recollection of the move to the CCU as he was in a medically-induced coma.

He called the nurses heroes and added that they can’t practice social distancing like others while caring for patients. All they have between themselves and the patients, he added, are gloves, sheer gowns and face coverings.

“They have to trust that they’ll stay safe,” he said. “They’re heroes. They went beyond the extra mile.”

“It’s so important for families and caregivers to have a bond and have communication. It made me a real person.”

— Scott November

November said he is grateful that his caregivers did everything they could to keep in touch with his family regularly through phone calls and FaceTime and answered their questions about his condition since COVID-19 guidelines prevent visitors at hospitals.

“It’s so important for families and caregivers to have a bond and have communication,” he said. “It made me a real person.”

To make up for the lack of family interaction, the nurses hung up family photos and his grandchildren’s drawings on the hospital room walls. His wife, Shelley, said the health care workers felt her family’s desperation, and at times nurses would fix her husband’s hair and even stroke his head to comfort him.

November said he was told there were several patients in the CCU while he was there, and he witnessed health care professionals scrambling to learn more about the novel virus, even joining online forums to talk to other nurses and doctors around the country.

November is grateful to be alive, he said, as he heard that others on ventilators lost their battles against the virus. Not only that, he almost died himself. His wife had received a call during his stint in the hospital that he was close to death, but the nurses tried one more thing. They heard that putting patients in a prone position helped to increase oxygen intake, and they decided to put him on his stomach. The move worked.

While November was in the hospital, his wife, who is 65, also came down with the coronavirus, though she didn’t need to be hospitalized. She said while she was fortunate not to be admitted to the hospital, it was tough dealing with everything, and when she was at her worst, her husband was also at his. Both she and her husband are grateful that their children Jordan, Courtney and Remy were able to help out, leaving groceries by their mother’s door when she needed to quarantine.

When the husband was finally extubated and able to leave the CCU, he said he had no core strength and wasn’t self-sufficient so he was sent to a rehab facility. Then days after entering rehab, he was able to walk 300 feet, climb three flights of stairs and become self-sufficient enough to use the bathroom and groom himself on his own. 

On April 17 he left rehab, and after eight days of quarantining at home, he said he was thrilled to see his family, even if it was from a distance. 

“There were prayers to God, to Jesus, to Allah. There were prayers to everybody on my behalf.”

— Scott November

When it comes to getting through the rough times, November said he is a big believer in science and knows everything the doctors and nurses did and all the research being done played a part in his recovery. Calling himself an agnostic, he added he also believes it has something to do with the diverse groups of friends he and his wife, as well as his children, have.

“There were prayers to God, to Jesus, to Allah,” November said. “There were prayers to everybody on my behalf.”

He said his recovery and being able to unite with his family is bittersweet though, because he knows of the many lives that have been lost to the coronavirus. Knowing that he is also concerned for those who have not been able to mourn for their loved ones with funerals and services.

“They’re not a number. Each one of them is  a human being,” he said. “Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, grandchildren, coworkers, friends — they have their camaraderie.”

His wife agreed that families are destroyed, and it’s frustrating for nurses who put the same efforts into everyone’s care.

“It’s really hard to understand why he was spared,” she said. “Why did the universe have mercy on us and not others, and it’s hard to live with that.”

Photo from Northwell Health

Huntington Hospital has achieved a prestigious four-star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in its annual 2020 hospital rankings, its comprehensive quality measurement report released on Jan. 30.

CMS hospital rankings of more than 4,000 Medicare-certified facilities nationwide take into account over 50 performance measures that analyze health care outcomes such as readmission rates, patient experience, safety and quality of care. CMS’ hospital rankings are considered among the best hospital report cards to help inform where to receive medical care.

Huntington Hospital’s CMS rating follows its recognition as New York State’s highest-ranked community hospital by U.S. News & World Report in its 2019-20 Best Hospital list.

“From redesigning our Center for Mothers & Babies to include all private rooms for a better patient experience to consistently setting and meeting high benchmarks for health care quality, we at Huntington Hospital take our patients’ needs to heart as we thoughtfully provide them with world-class care,” said Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital. 

“We are always looking at ways to not only provide the necessary health care that our Suffolk County residents require, but to go above and beyond to give them the best medical care available,” he added.

Huntington Hospital nurses have received the highest nursing honor – Magnet designation – a Long Island record four times in a row.  The hospital’s orthopedics program has also been consistently been ranked by the Joint Commission with the gold seal of approval for its hip and knee replacements and was among the top 1 percent nationally in orthopedics, according to U.S. News. 

Huntington Hospital has also been designated as a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology and a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery by the Surgical Review Corporation.

For more information about Huntington Hospital, go to www.huntington.northwell.edu or call 631-351-2000.

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Photo courtesy of Northwell Health

Huntington Hospital has achieved a prestigious four-star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in its annual 2020 hospital rankings, its comprehensive quality measurement report released on Jan. 30.

CMS hospital rankings of more than 4,000 Medicare-certified facilities nationwide take into account over 50 performance measures that analyze health care outcomes such as readmission rates, patient experience, safety and quality of care. CMS’ hospital rankings are considered among the best hospital report cards to help inform where to receive medical care.

Huntington Hospital’s CMS rating follows its recognition as New York State’s highest-ranked community hospital by U.S. News & World Report in its 2019-20 Best Hospital list.

“From redesigning our Center for Mothers & Babies to include all private rooms for a better patient experience to consistently setting and meeting high benchmarks for health care quality, we at Huntington Hospital take our patients’ needs to heart as we thoughtfully provide them with world-class care,” said Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital. 

“We are always looking at ways to not only provide the necessary health care that our Suffolk County residents require, but to go above and beyond to give them the best medical care available,” he added.

Huntington Hospital nurses have received the highest nursing honor – Magnet designation – a Long Island record four times in a row.  The hospital’s orthopedics program has also been consistently been ranked by the Joint Commission with the gold seal of approval for its hip and knee replacements and was among the top 1 percent nationally in orthopedics, according to U.S. News. 

Huntington Hospital has also been designated as a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology and a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery by the Surgical Review Corporation.

For more information about Huntington Hospital, go to www.huntington.northwell.edu or call 631-351-2000.

 

Huntington Hospital’s four midwives, from left, Laura Jabbour, Jessica Hilsenroth, Michele Mayer and Lindsay Price. Photo from Northwell Health

Huntington Hospital’s four midwives are now seeing patients at Northwell Health Physician Partners ob/gyn offices in Commack and Smithtown. 

Midwives Michele Mayer, Jessica Hilsenroth, Laura Jabbour and Lindsay Price have office hours at 777 Larkfield Road in Commack and 222 East Middle Country Road, Suite 114 in Smithtown. In addition, the midwives see patients at Huntington Hospital’s Women’s Center at 270 Park Ave. in Huntington.

“In response to patient requests, we have begun seeing women at these convenient offices to better serve the residents of Suffolk County,” said Mayer, supervisor of Huntington Hospital’s midwife practice. 

Midwives provide care to women from their first gynecologic visit through menopause with comprehensive prenatal care and natural childbirth; well woman exams; treatment of common gynecologic issues; and contraception consultation, initiation and surveillance.

To schedule an appointment with a Huntington Hospital midwife, please call 631-351-2415. 

For more information about the Northwell Health Physician Partners Obstetrics and Gynecology call 631-775-3290 (Smithtown office) or 631-470-8940 (Commack office).