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Photo from Huntington Hospital

Huntington Hospital has been recognized with American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline gold plus award for its high-quality care of people with severe heart attacks. The hospital earned this distinction by providing life-saving, time-sensitive patients who experience ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), the most serious type of heart attack caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart. National guidelines recommend that balloon angioplasty be performed within 90 minutes or less of arrival to the hospital. 

This is the first time the hospital has achieved the gold designation; Huntington Hospital received the silver award last year. 

“This achievement was made possible through Huntington Hospital’s partnership between its emergency department and cardiac catheterization laboratory teams, as well as our strong relationship with our community first responders,” said Lawrence Ong, MD, vice president of cardiology for Northwell Health’s Eastern region and chairman of cardiology at Huntington Hospital. The hospital has two cardiac catheterization laboratories as well as two electrophysiology areas

Treatment done this quickly has been made possible in part through the hospital’s use of the LifeNet system, which allows first responders to securely send important health information Electrocardiograms (ECG) to Huntington Hospital’s emergency cardiac team so they can mobilize to help the incoming patient.

For more information about Huntington Hospital’s cardiac services, call 631-351-2000.

 

Northwell Health President and CEO Michael J. Dowling, who marshalled tens of thousands of his workforce this spring to battle the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) surge in the New York metropolitan area, has been named to Modern Healthcare magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare,” ranking second overall.

This year’s top spot has been reserved for the frontline worker – doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, environmental service workers and administrators – who put their lives at risk daily to care for COVID-19 patients.

While Northwell Health is combatting the second surge of COVID-19, Mr. Dowling’s innovation, leadership and strong stance on social issues such as gun violence as a public health crisis as well as immigration and the opioid epidemic, have also contributed to him earning a place on Modern Healthcare’s prestigious list for the 14th consecutive year. The list includes the nation’s most prominent health care CEOs, elected officials and government administrators.

“This year has shown us how vulnerable we are to the various pandemics facing health care,” Mr. Dowling said. “COVID-19 devastated us. Gun violence continues to cripple us. And there are numerous other issues that are keeping our communities from thriving. It is our responsibility to partner with them to finally move the needle in the right direction.”

To date, across Northwell’s network, the health system has treated 101,000 COVID-19 patients, including 16,000 who were hospitalized, more than any other hospital system in the country.

Mr. Dowling wrote about the lessons Northwell learned, as well as a prescription to avoid the spread of future viral illnesses in his latest book, “Leading Through a Pandemic: The Inside Story of Humanity, Innovation, and Lessons Learned During the COVID-19 Crisis.” His vision and crisis management expertise helped manage the surge, establish one of the nation’s most state-of-the-art testing centers at Northwell Health Labs, innovate new ways to alleviate supply shortages and utilize the entire integrated health system to improve patient care..

 During his tenure as CEO, Mr. Dowling has developed Northwell Health into New York State’s largest health system with 23 hospitals, approximately 800 ambulatory and physician practices, and $13.5 billion in annual revenue. His ability to grow the health system into a vast clinical, academic and research enterprise builds on a legacy of innovation dating back to his 12 years of public service overseeing health, education and human services for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Health care leaders ranked among the top 10 in Modern Healthcare’s 2020 list were Marc Harrison, MD, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare (third) and Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (ninth). 

To see the complete list of Modern Healthcare’s “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare,” go to: http://ModernHealthcare.com/100MostInfluential.

Mather Hospital changed its visitation policies Nov. 23. File photo by Alex Petroski

This story was updated Wednesday to include Stony Brook University Hospital.

Amid increases in the percentage of positive tests for coronavirus, Northwell hospitals including Huntington Hospital and Mather Hospital have changed their visitor policies.

Effective on Tuesday, Nov. 24, Mather Hospital has suspended patient visitation, including the Emergency Department and Transition Care Unit.

The exceptions for visitors include patients for whom a support person is considered medically necessary, including people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities and patients with cognitive impairments, including dementia.

Additionally, patients in imminent end-of-life situations may be allowed a family member or legal representative as a support at the bedside. The Department of Health defines imminent end-of-life as a patient who may die within 24 hours.

Pediatric visits in Emergency Departments are limited to one parent or guardian. Adolescent psychiatry, meanwhile, is limited to one parent or guardian between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Visitors must meet several criteria at Mather. They have to be 18 years old or older, have not been exposed to COVID-19 and be screened for symptoms. Visitors also have to wear appropriate personal protective equipment. Those who don’t wear such PPE won’t be permitted in the hospital.

Visitors will have to stay in the patient room during the visit. When they leave the room, visitors will remove their PPE, wash their hands and leave the hospital. Visitors should not be in the room during aerosol-generating procedures.

Patients can choose who can and can’t visit and may select priority support people.

A view of the front entrance to Huntington Hospital on Park Avenue in Huntington. File photo

Huntington Hospital

Meanwhile, at Huntington Hospital, all visitation, except for extraordinary circumstances, is suspended, effective Nov. 30.

The hospital has experience an increase in cases, although the total numbers remain low, with fewer than 20 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

“Social Distance and mask wearing by the community is critical,” Nick Fitterman, Executive Director at Huntington Hospital, said through an email.

One support person for patients in the Center for Mothers and Babies may remain throughout the hospital stay.

Outpatient Radiology services are canceled, effective Nov. 30.

Huntington Hospital’s surgical services are fully operation. The staff will take COVID-negative surgical patients through the hospital’s safe pathways.

The hospital strictly enforces universal masking, protective eyewear, hand hygiene and social distancing.

“We remain confident in these practices, and that they will protect our patients from COVID-19 while in the hospital,” Fitterman said.

File photo

Stony Brook Hospital

Starting on Friday, Nov. 27, all visitation is suspended except for patient support persons or family members and/or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations.

Hospitals will permit a patient support person at the bedside for patients in labor and delivery, pediatric patients patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities or patients with cognitive impairments including dementia.

The Monti and Saladino families, above, continue the work of The Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation. Photo from Jim Kennedy

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, The Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation continues to raise money to support cancer care and research on Long Island.

Caroline Monti Saladino speaks at last year’s Cancer Survivors Day. Photo from Mel Saladino

The foundation, named for Don Monti, who died at 16 in 1972 from acute myeloblastic leukemia, has changed some of the events this year, but not the mission.

Instead of the annual ball at the Woodbury-based Crest Hollow Country Club, which the Montis own, the foundation started its Capital Giving Campaign and hopes to raise $1 million this year. All of the proceeds support the mission, since the foundation’s senior staff, including Caroline Monti Saladino, president, work for free.

“Today with COVID, nothing has changed with the journey,” she said.

The foundation has mailed out a capital campaign brochure that includes letters from Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health; Richard Barakat, director of Northwell Health Cancer Institute; and Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Your investment in cancer clinical care, research, wellness and survivorship enhances our ability to provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for our patients and enables us to provide support services for their families and loved ones,” Barakat wrote in his letter.

Monti Saladino, who has helped cancer patients for close to five decades, said the needs of cancer patients haven’t changed.

The Monti foundation has become a multigenerational family cause, which Tita and Joseph started months after their son died. The foundation has raised more than $47 million to support research, education and patient care in oncology and hematology. It has donated money to Northwell Health, Huntington Hospital, Long Island Jewish and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for everything from patient care and treatment to genetic counseling to basic research.

The foundation recently donated $50,000 to Huntington Hospital to help fund its developing cancer center.

Numerous members of the Monti and Saladino families have dedicated time and effort to improving the lives of people with cancer and to offering support to the families of patients. Monti Saladino said her children are involved, as are some of her 12 grandchildren, who have continued the family tradition by raising money to support the foundation.

The foundation has an office at CSHL, where Stillman said he often sees “family members working there, helping to raise support — it’s an amazing dedication.”

In addition to the visible connection through laboratories at CSHL, the foundation has supported four Don Monti cancer centers in Nassau and Suffolk, at North Shore University Hospital, also Huntington, Glen Cove and Plainview hospitals.

The members of the Monti and Saladino families have also played instrumental roles by visiting patients, hosting Don Monti Cancer Survivors Day events and forging new relationships with recipients of their support.

When Northwell and CSHL were looking for a link between the basic research at the Lab where new ideas and methods are developed, and the clinic where medical teams worked to provide personalized care, the Monti foundation helped facilitate a partnership.

“We were very familiar with what was going on” at Northwell partly “through the Monti foundation,” Stillman said. “They were helpful. It was good that people on both sides knew each other.”

Cold Spring Harbor Lab Connection

CSHL has received between $300,000 to $500,000 each year for over a decade from the foundation, which supports innovative research and supplements the funds the scientists receive from government agencies like the National Cancer Institute.

Receiving national grants is difficult and competitive, which increases the value of philanthropic funding that is the “driver of innovation and one of the reasons the United States is so prominent in research,” Stillman said.

He appreciates how the foundation offers a direct connection between the scientists working to cure a disease and the patients and their families who are, and have been, battling cancer.

Principal investigators, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students attend Cancer Survivors Day, during which they see people who might benefit from their research efforts.

“When you see patients, it does change the way you think about how you do the research,” Stillman said.

The funds from the foundation have supported numerous research initiatives at CSHL, including the work of Nicholas Tonks and Christopher Vakoc.

Working with chemists, Tonks developed molecules that inhibit enzymes called protein tyrosine phosphatases, which could be used to treat breast cancer.

Vakoc, meanwhile, has found subtypes of cancer that require critical proteins to grow. He is working on a program to identify how to target what Stillman described as the “Achilles heel” of some cancers.

“Our reputation through the years as a patient-oriented organization and a research-oriented organization has really sustained us. A lot of the people we have healed through our organization are very generous.”

— Caroline Monti Saladino

Northwell Health Connection

The Monti foundation works closely with Dr. Ruthee-Lu Bayer, who is the chief of stem cell transplantation at Northwell Health.

“She and her team are amazing,” Monti Saladino said.

She recalled that Bayer was doing clerical work she didn’t have time to do in the midst of her life-saving and life-extending efforts.

The foundation’s president suggested that the hospital should hire an administrator so Bayer’s team could see more patients. Monti Saladino spoke to the hospital administrator and said she would contribute $100,000 a year for five years, if the hospital contributed the remaining cost. The hospital agreed, providing some relief for Bayer’s efforts.

Monti Saladino said contributors appreciate the history of the Monti foundation and its ongoing focus.

“Our reputation through the years as a patient-oriented organization and a research-oriented organization has really sustained us,” she said. “A lot of the people we have healed through our organization are very generous.”

Stuart Hayim, who is a dealer of Ferraris and Maseratis on Long Island, recovered from lymphoma in 1979 while receiving medical treatment and personalized attention from Tita Monti, at the Don Monti Division of Oncology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. Since then, he has won boat races and raised money each year for the foundation.

Monti Saladino said the foundation helps patients wherever and however it can.

When her young brother Don was diagnosed with leukemia in 1972, oncology and chemotherapy were “primitive,” she said. In terms of patient care, the medical experience “didn’t make people very comfortable.”

The Foundation’s Goal

Through the money the Don Monti foundation raised, the goal was to make the challenging experience of dealing with treating cancer more bearable for people and the families who go through it, she said.

The foundation built the first bone-marrow transplant unit in the 1990s, added a patient lounge and funded Cancer Survivors Day.

Monti Saladino said she “lives and breathes” her brother every day. Don died in June 1972, and her parents, Tita and Joseph Monti, had their first fundraiser that December.

Tita Monti, who died in 2006, said she didn’t want what happened to Don to happen to other people.

“We need to make a purpose out of his short 16 years of life, from the joy he gave us,” Monti Saladino recalled her mother saying.

Her brother’s story is a credit to his determination and to his mother’s perseverance, Monti Saladino said. Doctors had given him six weeks to live. His mother combined beetroot powder with natural and other healthy treatments that extended his life by 16 months.

Stillman said the legacy of the Monti family is evident throughout Long Island.

“It’s quite impressive, all of the number of people they’ve touched,” he said. “They’ve improved the treatment environment, the cancer environment, the clinicians and researchers.”

Monti Saladino said she and the family are far from perfect.

“We’ve got our issues,” she said. “They don’t affect this. This is a real focus that never changes.”

For more information, visit www.donmontifoundation.org.

Stock photo

With the approaching emotions of the holidays, Suffolk County residents may face persistent and unwanted changes in their lives, from not seeing a cherished family member to remaining confined to the same house where they work, live, eat and study. Between now and the end of the year, TBR News Media will feature stories about the impact of the ongoing pandemic on mental health. The articles will explore how to recognize signs of mental health strain and will provide advice to help get through these difficult times. This week, the article focuses on youth.

In a normal year, when school is out, the number of referrals Dr. Sharon Skariah, Director of Child Adolescent Psychiatry at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, declines during the summer.

Dr. Sharon Skariah says parents should recognize their own issues in order to help their children. Photo by Sharon Skariah

That’s not the case this year, as children continued to seek help for mental health challenges caused by the loss of a parent, the loss of financial or health security and the decline in social contact amid social distancing.

“We’ve been seeing significant anxiety and depression,” Skariah said. “Part of that is the prolonged time that [children] have been out of school.”

Skariah expects that the ongoing pandemic losses and restrictions will likely continue to cause those figures to increase.

Several mental health professionals shared their dos and don’ts for parents with grieving children.

Grieving Dos

For starters, Skariah suggests that parents should recognize their own anxiety and depression.

“If they find that they are themselves overwhelmed with the chaos of the pandemic, they should be aware that their own anxiety and mood can play a role in their children’s behavior,” she said.

Dr. Meghan Downey, clinical psychologist and Director of Northwell Health’s OnTrackNY, urged people to maintain a routine.

“Often, a holiday can exacerbate our stress levels,” Downey said. “Changes to our routine can increase stress. Continuing with the same sleep wake routine, normal eating and [finding time] for joy and relaxation provide a good foundation for managing grief.”

Based on prior group traumatic events, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the SARS virus, Skariah said the restoration of order happens over time and depends on personal and predisposing factors.

She urged families to be genuine and open and actively listen to what children say. Downey suggests children need to feel that they are allowed to mourn.

A support network can and should consider showing empathy, care and concern. Approaching people when they are calm, rather than in a distressed state, can provide some mental health relief.

People who are experiencing grief also can benefit from staying connected, even through holiday letters, phone calls, or a card, Downey said.

When Downey gives presentations to children and educators in school, she advises people working with young children to allow them to play death, to display their emotions through play.

Grieving Don’ts

Telling children platitudes like “time heals all wounds” may not be helpful for someone who is “acutely grieving,” Skariah said.

Downey added that telling children that a loved one is “sleeping” or that they should “stop crying, other people might get upset” provides mixed and confusing messages.

Telling children that “at least [the person who died is] not in pain anymore, they are in a better place” often doesn’t help and distracts people from feeling their emotional intensity, Downey said.

Downey cautioned youths, and their adult guardians, to manage over-indulgent behavior, such as with food or with excess spending.

While those indulgences provide temporary relief, they can also contribute to feelings of guilt, which can exacerbate grief, Downey cautioned.

Bradley Lewis, Administrative Manager for School Based Mental Health Services for South Oaks Hospital, said he has received numerous requests during the pandemic for support related to COVID-19.

Lewis said Downey’s presentations to some of the 11 school districts went beyond the thought of death, but include losses in other areas, like access to friends, senior awards dinners, and graduations.

“A lot of families appreciated the opportunity to learn more about grief and loss, to understand the different types of grief their children might be going through,” Lewis said.

With parents, Lewis urges parents to “end the stigma of mental health,” he said.

John Flanagan and his father in the assembly circa 1972. The photo is one that the former state senator kept in his office. Photo from John Flanagan

New York recently ended its 48-year streak of having a John Flanagan representative in the State Assembly or Senate.

“I thought about him when I was fighting for school aid for the entire state.”

John Flanagan Jr. retired from public service June 28, after spending 16 years in the Assembly and 18 years in the Senate, which included three years as Senate majority leader. When his political career began, Flanagan Jr. succeeded his father, John Flanagan, who served for 14 years in the state Assembly until 1986.

The younger Flanagan was 25 years old when his father died. Within a week of his father’s death, Flanagan, who, like his father is a Republican, was campaigning for his seat in the Assembly.

“It was a whirlwind of a time,” Flanagan said. “If my father had died a week later, based on what the law was, he would have been on the ballot as someone who was deceased.”

When he started campaigning, he was attending law school at night. When he won the election, he was sworn in in January and got married 10 days later.

Flanagan attributes his ability to stay grounded and deal with all the changes in his life at the beginning of his political career to a collection of people who loved his father and supported and guided him.

Throughout his over three decades in public service, Flanagan often thought of his father, who he describes as his “hero. If I’m going to be like anyone, I wanted to be like him.”

Flanagan sees similarities in their approach to public service, which is something his father and mother emphasized when he was young.

Both Flanagans were passionate believers in education. The senior Flanagan was a teacher for 10 years, while his son chaired an education committee.

“I thought about him when I was fighting for school aid for the entire state,” Flanagan said.

They also shared a commitment to swift and consistent justice for criminals and advocating for victims’ rights.

The younger Flanagan, who is 59 and is a divorced father of three, said he still has energy left in the tank and is eager to embrace his new role as vice president for government affairs at Northwell Health.

“I didn’t leave after 33½ years so I could go back,” Flanagan said.

He is, however, allowed to interact with state agencies and to work locally to help build the brand name in Suffolk County.

As for his work in the Legislature, Flanagan is proud of his efforts on behalf of people who live in group homes, which are, as he put it, “public policy issues that won’t always be on the front page” but are important.

Flanagan felt that taking care of children with special needs was the “ultimate reflection of who we were as a state.”

As a public servant, he felt it was his responsibility to help people feel that the government is there for them and is operating on their behalf.

He is “extraordinarily proud” of the work he did in education, where he felt the need to advocate for children across the state. He said he was “not afraid to mix it up” on anything, in rural, upstate, downstate, urban, suburban or other areas.

Flanagan is also pleased with the work he did to encourage organ donations through Lauren’s Law, which required the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to ask anyone applying for a license to answer the question of whether they would like to be an organ donor.

“There’s not enough legitimate discourse on things the way they should be.”

“We have a lot more work to do and a lot further to go,” Flanagan said. “That’s something I’m going to continue to work on in my new endeavor.”

The greatest part of his political career, he said, was the people. He appreciated meeting the direct care workers, the hospice care workers and the staff with whom he felt privileged to work.

The part he misses the least is the backbiting and not having people always be honest and forthright with him.

While he has seen a collection of people who have left political office in the last few years, he said he can only speak for his retirement.

“Social media and changes in technology have made the economy better, [but] it’s a sound bite world of the highest order,” he said. “There’s not enough legitimate discourse on things the way they should be.”

He also said he doesn’t miss the drives to Albany, which he did for so many years that he’s convinced he went at least a million miles.

Before he left office, he walked around the state capitol, where he took in the architecture and made videos of pictures and paintings and narrated a description he “wanted to share with my family.”

While he said he’s going to miss 90 percent of his working life, he appreciated the joy of being “in the game. Doing the stuff I did, I felt like I was playing for the Yankees and I was in the playoffs. I got to be the majority leader.”

To those who believe he left because the Republicans lost the majority, he says that isn’t the case. He felt like he had a “very good run” and wanted to do other things. He considers himself a part of a select and small group of people who served in the Legislature, in both houses, and who became the majority leader.

He prides himself on his ability to work with so many people and on his consistency.

“I didn’t change my stripes,” he said.

He said he went public with his battle with sobriety. He appreciates the support of people who stood with and by him through those challenges. The low point of checking into rehab also helped bring him to a higher point in his life and career, he said.

Flanagan wanted to ensure that every child, no matter what their community, demographic, background and history had the same opportunities his children had.

Children with special needs have an Individual Education Program, which provides a personalized plan for their specific strengths.

“If education is being done properly, every child should have an IEP,” Flanagan said.

He is pleased with the work he did with Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who is also retiring this December, to secure millions of dollars for programs at Stony Brook University.

As for modern politics, Flanagan has mixed feelings about President Donald Trump (R).

“I wish he weren’t on Twitter,” Flanagan said. “He’s done strong things for the economy all across the country. The dialog on both sides should be at a better level.”

Flanagan, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary and his law degree from Touro Law School, tried never to engage in insults.

“People have a right to expect from elected officials, whether trustees or school board members, to act a certain way,” he said.

“People have a right to expect from elected officials, whether trustees or school board members, to act a certain way.”

When he texts, Flanagan uses full sentences, correct grammar and punctuation and doesn’t use emojis. He believes politicians should use the English language to the greatest effect and to serve as educational role models for their constituents.

Flanagan is a fan of Chairman of the Suffolk County GOP Jesse Garcia, who has “done a great job of being a standard bearer for the party.”

Flanagan mentioned the Town of Babylon supervisor and chair of the county Democratic committee Rich Schaffer as one of his favorite Democrats.

“He and I don’t have to agree,” Flanagan said. “I respect who he is, his work ethic and his experience.”

In his office, Flanagan kept a a 2×7-inch placard that was in his house and also in his father’s office. It read: “God so loved the world that he didn’t send the committee.”

Flanagan said he believes that the saying suggests that “we have a tendency to overcomplicate things.”

For the current public servants just starting their political careers, Flanagan urged them to “be who you are. Do not forget the people you represent. They are the ones who are your bosses. Never lose sight of who you should be representing.”

Dr. David Rivadeneira. Photo from Northwell Health

David Rivadeneira, MD, MBA, has been appointed director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Huntington. The announcement was made in press release on June 4. For the last seven years, Dr. Rivadeneira has led surgical services and colorectal surgery at Huntington Hospital.

“We are thrilled Dr. Rivadeneira will be leading the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Huntington,” said Richard Barakat, MD, physician-in-chief and director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute and senior vice president of cancer services at Northwell Health. 

“He is a gifted surgeon, experienced leader and skilled educator, who also has strong community ties. Cancer experts throughout the health system look forward to collaborating with him as he builds new cancer programs in the Huntington area,” he said.

“The goal of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Huntington is to provide a center of excellence to offer phenomenal cancer care and to be a leader in cancer services in Suffolk County,” said Dr. Rivadeneira, a resident of Lloyd Harbor. 

“As Suffolk’s population grows each year there is a tremendous need to provide top-quality cancer care to residents locally. It’s much less stressful for patients to get care in their community than travel to Nassau Country or Manhattan. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored our patients’ desire to avoid leaving the area for cancer care.”

Dr. Rivadeneira said the Cancer Institute at Huntington, located at 270 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn, treats patients with range of diseases such as breast, thoracic, colorectal, kidney, prostate and other cancers.

“To create an environment in which patients receive exceptional care, a key component is to have the best doctors with the appropriate expertise in organ disease-specific cancers, as well as specially-trained nurse navigators dedicated to guiding patients through their journey,” he said. 

“We are recruiting top physicians in oncology, radiation oncology, surgery and professionals with genetic expertise. Also, we are adding certified staff members to the program who will offer nutrition support and integrative approaches such as meditation and other holistic modalities.”

Future plans include building a comprehensive ambulatory cancer center at Huntington Hospital offering patients a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care treatment. Clinical leaders in all oncology modalities will be within the campus of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute at Huntington, making it easier for patients and their care teams to communicate and meet when deciding treatment plans. With a close connection to the National Cancer Institute-designated Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, patients will benefit from leading cancer research.

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. 

Tents like the one above are being used during Stony Brook University Hospital’s drive-through testing for the coronavirus. Photo by Kyle Barr

Hospitals along the North Shore of Western Suffolk are changing the way they operate to keep the number of coronavirus cases down.

Stony Brook University Hospital

Stony Brook University is asking that all patients who have cold and flu-like symptoms to go directly to its emergency room department area and not get out of their cars, according to its website. Between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., patients driving to the emergency department entrance will be greeted and screened while in their vehicles.

Stony Brook University’s Ambulatory Care Pavilion COVID-19 Triage area. Photo from SBUH

Those with cold and flu-like symptoms and mild respiratory symptoms will be directed by staff members to go to the hospital’s new triage area located in the nearby Ambulatory Care Pavilion. The triage area will be staffed by emergency medicine physicians and nurses.

According to Stony Brook Medicine, “The triage service is to separate patients with cold and flu-like symptoms from others seeking emergent care, in order to provide all patients with a streamlined environment for care and treatment.”

Dr. Eric Morley, clinical associate professor and clinical director of the SBU Renaissance School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said in an email the new procedure has been successful.

“The process has gone very well, and we are seeing an increasing number of patients in the triage and treatment area located in the Ambulatory Care Pavilion,” he said. “Our staff have adapted very well to the new process. The level of teamwork and dedication of our staff is clearly the driving force behind this success.”

He said doctors have seen patients with both cold and flu-like symptoms, and also those who fit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for COVID-19 testing.

On March 18, a drive-through testing site for the coronavirus opened in the commuter P Lot on the southern end of the SBU campus. According to the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), those wishing to be tested must call 888-364-3065 to schedule an appointment. No referral from a doctor is needed but operators will ask callers questions such as age, symptoms, if they have any underlying health problems and if they have been out of the country. The information will be given to the New York State Department of Health, which will call back with an appointment confirmation if testing is deemed necessary.

SBUH has revised its visitors policy. In response to New York State declaring a state of the emergency due to COVID-19, the hospital will no longer allow visitation until further notice.

“While we understand the important role that family members and visitors play in a patient’s healing process, this is a necessary step we need to take at this time for our adult units,” a statement from SBUH officials said, adding that exceptions will be made in pediatrics, labor and delivery, maternity and neonatal intensive care, also end of life on a case-by-case basis.

Catholic Health Services of LI: St. Charles and St. Catherine hospitals

Catholic Health Services of Long Island, until further notice, has suspended visits to all its hospitals as well as skilled nursing facilities, according to its website. Hospital officials said exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis, which will entail hospital and nursing home leadership making a decision in conjunction with its infection prevention department and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for screening for the coronavirus before allowing visitation. CHS may make exceptions for end of life and newborn delivery.

On the CHS website, Dr. Patrick O’Shaughnessy, executive vice president and chief clinical officer, explained the screening on the system’s website.

“At all CHS hospitals emergency departments, in our skilled nursing facilities and throughout our regional nursing service, we are actively screening, asking patients about recent travel and looking for signs and symptoms of the virus,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Symptoms include fever and respiratory issues. Also, we are taking these precautionary steps at our owned physician practices.”

CHS has canceled all elective surgeries from March 23 through April 24, according to its website.

Northwell Health: Mather and Huntington hospitals

Northwell Health Labs announced March 11 in a press release that it began semi-automated testing for COVID-19 through its Lake Success facility.

“Since we began manual testing Sunday evening, we processed about 133 tests,” said Dr. Dwayne Breining, executive director, in the press release. “Moving to this semi-automated system will enable us to increase our testing capacity immediately to about 160 a day, and then to several hundred a day later this week.”

Dr. John D’Angelo, senior vice president and executive director of Northwell Health’s emergency medicine service line, said in an email that changes have been in place for a while in its health care system.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson is sending tests to Northwell’s Lake Success facility. File photo from Mather Hospital

“We instituted changes from normal practice long ago, starting with 100 percent screening of all patients on arrival with positive screens being masked immediately and escorted directly to a private room for further investigation,” D’Angelo said.

He added that a decision was made soon after to mask every employee after emergency department changes.

“I believe we were the first in the region to institute such a mask mandate,” he said. “Lastly, as traditional screening (travel to CDC level 2/3 countries or known close contact) became less relevant, we decided to mask everyone — all patients, all visitors and all staff — while we continue to aggressively cohort patients with potential COVID-like symptoms.”

Emergency department volumes in the Northwell system have remained at or below average, according to hospital officials.

“The public is listening and staying home,” said Dr. Leonardo Huertas, chair of emergency medicine at Huntington Hospital.

D’Angelo said a surge plan is in place for all Northwell system emergency departments which can be used if the overall general volumes increase “or if there is a surge of COVID-suspected patients.”

He added that if a plan was needed “an exterior ‘split-flow’ model” would be put in place. This would enable those who may possibly have COVID-19 but aren’t that sick to be treated in an alternative care site adjacent to the emergency room, while “those arriving with COVID symptoms but are too sick for the alternative care site will be brought directly into a predetermined, cohort isolation area within the emergency department. Every site has such plans.”

Northwell has also canceled all elective surgeries. These surgeries, endoscopies and other invasive procedures in the outpatient setting will continue when doctors determine that they are clinically necessary.

A Mather Hospital official also said that the junior and adult volunteer programs have been suspended, and the hospital is working with Northwell on childcare alternatives for staff members.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has halted all public events until April due to the Coronavirus. File photo

With six cases of coronavirus Covid-19 in New York state confirmed as at March 4, state, local institutions are preparing for the potential spread of the virus.

New York lawmakers earlier this week passed a $40 million spending bill. The funds will allow the Department of Health to hire staff, purchase equipment and gather additional resources to address a virus for which a travel ban no longer seems sufficient to ensure containment.

A 50-year old Westchester man tested positive for the virus, even though he didn’t travel to areas of contamination, which include China, South Korea and Italy, and didn’t have known contact with anyone who has traveled to those areas. Through the so-called community spread of the virus, which has a mortality rate of more than 3 percent, can infect a wider range of people.

Northwell Health Labs said earlier this week it expects to begin testing for Covid-19 within a week. The health facility, which announced the future testing at a news conference March 2 with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said manual testing could involve 75 to 100 tests each day. After it automates the tests, the facility could process hundreds and even thousands of tests on a daily basis. Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson is part of Northwell Health group.

Meanwhile, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stony Brook University have made recommendations to staff who might travel to areas of infection.

BNL is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and the State Department regarding health notices and travel advisories. The U.S. State Department has a do-not-travel restriction on trips to China and Iran, along with specific areas of Italy and South Korea, while it also recommends reconsidering travel to Italy, South Korea and Mongolia.

Also, BNL is asking visiting scientists if they traveled to China or live with someone who visited China within 14 days. If the answer to either question is “yes,” these individuals have to complete a 14-day period away from China without symptoms before returning to the lab.

BNL canceled the International Forum on Detectors for Photon Science conference, which was scheduled for March 29 through April 1 at Danfords Hotel in Port Jefferson. The conference was expected to have 40 participants.

CSHL has canceled or postponed all upcoming conferences and courses bringing participants to campus through April 5th. The laboratory will reevaluate future offerings on a rolling basis.

Also, CSHL is cleaning common areas including bathrooms, counters and dining areas more frequently, is providing more hand sanitation stations, is enhancing the readiness of its Center for Health & Wellness and is providing secure transfer protocols for at-risk people with potential symptoms of the virus.

SBU discouraged school-related and personal travel to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. The school also created a mandatory preapproval requirement for all publicly funded university-sponsored travel plans to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea. SBU has not canceled the Florence University of the Arts program, since the university is continuing classes as usual and the Tuscany region doesn’t have any reported cases of the virus.

On a national level, the Federal Reserve, in a move similar to decisions from other central banks, cut interest rates by half a percentage point, the biggest cut since the financial crisis of 2008. The cut was designed to stave off an economic slowdown caused by business disruptions from the coronavirus.

“The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement.

Updated March 5 to reflect most current CSHL procedures regarding conferences and courses.