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St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center

St. Charles Hospital in Port Jeff plays "Here Comes the Sun" every time a patient is discharged during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Kyle Barr

St. Charles Hospital ICU nurse Kacey McIntee, walking through the halls of a hospital in the midst of a pandemic, is just one of  scores of RNs who have watched their world flip the wrong way around. 

Where once the hospital had one Intensive Care Unit, now it has three. Every time she gets to work, she slips into hospital-issued scrubs and she’s assigned to one of the three units. Every single bed is housing a patient on a ventilator, nearly 40 in all. She’s bedecked in a mask, hair covering and face shield. 

Nursing Assistant Martha Munoz is working at St. Charles Hospital during the pandemic

Typically, the ratio is two ICU patients to one ICU nurse. However, now there are cases where she cares for up to three patients, alongside a helper nurse. She starts her day by looking at her assigned patients’ charts, and then spends the rest of her 12-hour shift doing her best to keep these patients, many in such dire straits, alive.

“A lot of times you can kind of expect something is going to go bad just based on blood values alone,” she said. “We mentally prepare ourselves for the worst-case scenario with our patients.”

It’s a common story among many medical centers, but local hospitals St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown and Port Jefferson’s St. Charles, both in the Catholic Health Services system, have been on the front lines of fighting the virus for longer than others, having seen their first COVID-19 positive patients March 8.

Jacquelina VandenAkker, a 33-year veteran respiratory therapist at St. Charles and Port Jeff resident, said while the past week has shown what seems to be a plateauing in the number of new cases, the first 10 days of the virus “was hell. You didn’t know the end of it.”

“We felt it was literally such a war zone. You knew you could be a victim to it because you don’t understand it,” she said. 

Hospital officials confirmed there were a number of staff who have contracted COVID-19, but declined to release the number of employees  who have been infected, citing that staff did not want it known if they’ve been previously infected. 

“We see a lot of deaths,” the respiratory therapist said. “I take the same unit. I know my patients. We start to understand the disease a lot more.”

McIntee, a Sound Beach resident, knows the pain and suffering of the COVID-19 patients suffering. It’s hard not to become entangled in the lives of these people, knowing the pain of suffering when the family can only communicate via tablet computer and online video chats.

“Nurses are really, really good at coping mechanisms,” she said. “One of the most useful ones is humor and the other is detachment. We cannot picture our loved ones in the bed — if we hear that one of our loved ones is sick with COVID, all bets are off, we are a mess.”

When it comes to that, when what has universally been the once inconceivable is happening moment to moment, McIntee said they rely on their fellow nurses.

“It’s almost as if we’re all in war together, and we have this bond for life that we will always be connected together, that we had these experiences that really nobody else in the world can experience except during this time,” she said.

The Initial Wave and Beyond

Jim O’Connor, the president of St. Charles and chief administrative officer of St. Catherine of Siena, said hospitals faced initial difficulties but hope things continue to look up. 

“Both St. Charles and St. Catherine had their first COVID-19 patient on the same day,” he said. “We struggled to keep up with it and the personal protective equipment we needed in that first week. Thankfully we seem to have gotten our sea legs.”

Dr. Jeffrey Wheeler, the director of St. Charles Hospital Emergency Department

Only about 25 percent of patients who are diagnosed require hospitalization, but of that 25 percent, 50 percent require ICU care, and many of them require a ventilator, O’Connor said.

Even before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) mandates shutting down all essential businesses, hospital admin said they saw what they call a “surge” of patients. 

Bonnie Morales, the director of infection prevention for St. Catherine, said she and other specialists at hospitals around Long Island had started preparing for the “what ifs” a few weeks before it finally came, but even then, it was hard to estimate just how much it would overtake the entire health care system. 

“I would have to say we were prepared, but that line list [of staff procedures] I went back to in the beginning, has grown from a page to three pages long,” she said.

The precautions for reducing infections became one of the most supreme considerations with both patients and staff, she said. Morales, a Selden resident, said the average patient on “transmission-based precautions” which were before only meant to help patients and staff avoid contact, has now gone from 20 to 30, up to over 100 that are currently on these transmission-based precautions because of the virus.

The hospitals had what the admin called a surge plan, but as the St. Charles president put it, “a man plans, and God laughs.” Learning just how many beds they would have to increase to was staggering, but he thanked the admin team who worked with barely little notice to start the process of acquiring more beds and space.

After Cuomo announced an executive order mandating hospitals increase their bed capacity by at least 50 percent, St. Charles and St. Catherine have boosted the number of beds to 243 in St. Charles and 296 beds at St. Catherine.

Mike Silverman, the COO at St. Catherine, said early on the hospitals decided to close access to the public. It was something that was unpopular to start, but in hindsight has been a smart decision.

Silverman only joined the hospital little more than two months ago and has had a trial by fire in the truest sense of the phrase.

“I don’t think anybody thought this was going to happen,” he said. “There was no playbook for this … It’s a lot of people doing what needs to be done,” he said.

O’Connor said the hospitals hit a high in the number of patients in the previous weeks, but since they have been climbing, inch by strenuous inch, off of that peak. Since the start of the outbreak, St. Charles has gone from eight ventilators to nearly 37 at peak. St. Catherine had 35 at peak. Each hospital has transformed its space to accommodate the massive number of critical patients by creating two new ICUs in each. All elective surgeries have been suspended and those workers have been moved to aid COVID-19 patients. 

“There’s definitely some angst,” Silverman said. “We know how many people are dying in the state, and we would see this many deaths in a week. It’s tough, whether it’s at work, whether its friends or friends’ families.”

Michelle Pekar, in purple scrubs, is part of the St. Charles Emergency Department. Photo by Marilyn Fabbricante

Both admin and health staff agreed the community has done an incredible amount of support for the health care workers. There have been consistent donations of meals, snacks and drinks. There have been a rollout of homemade masks and PPE supplies as well, along with cards and notes thanking the health care workers for all they do.

Still, to say it hasn’t taken an emotional toll would be wrong.

“It has been very tough on the staff because there is a very high mortality rate for people on ventilators,” O’Connor said. “What compounds it we weren’t allowed to have visitors so that really adds a whole different isolation for the patient and the families.”

The hospital has been using tablet computers to connect patients with family members at home, but it has also meant having to give them difficult news about those family members remotely.

“They have their own fears understandably about it. They have their own families they go home to that they worry about spreading it to,” he said. “I give them so much credit for them to put themselves at risk to be in a room with someone with a contagious disease.”

There have been moments of hope throughout the day in between the darkness. Every time a patient comes off a ventilator, the hospital plays “Breathe” by Faith Hill over the loudspeaker. When a patient is dismissed from the hospital, they then play the classic Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun.”

Hospitals’ PPE

O’Connor said the hospitals sterilize the PPE used by hospital workers at the end of each shift, and after the N95 is used three times then it is discarded, though if it becomes “soiled or contaminated” then it is discarded before that. Normally, such masks are not designed to be reused, but with supplies tight, hospitals and other medical centers have been looking to get as much use out of equipment as possible.

Susie Owens of St. Charles Hospital delivered a special message to her colleagues in chalk. Photo from St. Charles Facebook

“We know it is not a perfect system,” O’Connor said. “Nobody expected to have this patient volume, but I think we’ve done a good job, but is it perfect? No.”

The federal Office of Emergency Management has added to supplies, along with donations from companies and other local individuals. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has made guidelines for decontaminating such equipment, and hospital administration said they are following those guidelines. Catholic health systems announced earlier this month they had created an ultraviolet light sterilization system for masks in CHS hospitals.

The New York State Nurses Association has taken issue with the hospital’s practice of reusing such PPE as N95 masks after they’ve been sterilized. The union points to mask manufacturer 3M, who said there were no disinfection methods that would kill the virus and maintain effectiveness, though the CDC’s website cites numerous sources related to the positive results of disinfecting such masks.

Though a union representative could not be reached by press time, nurse representatives have spoken to other news outlets saying that both hospitals lacked PPE supplies, and that unlike systems, nurses in St. Charles and St. Catherine were made to wear gowns for an entire shift that are meant to be disposed of after one patient encounter.

McIntee said at the start of the pandemic, things were confused with PPE, with the CDC changing its guidelines constantly. Regarding gowns, she said hospital workers have a choice, they can either spray down reusable gowns with a cleaning solution in between patients, use disposable blue/plastic gowns, or the so-called bunny suits, the full-body white suits with a hood. With face shields, there are no other choices than rinsing it with solution.

Now, McIntee said if a worker wears an N95 mask continuously throughout the day in a 12-hour shift, they can discard them. If they wear them intermittently throughout the day, then they are bagged and sent to be sterilized at night. Sterilized masks then can be worn intermittently three more days before they are discarded.

“Not once have I ever had an issue with the N95 masks being told ‘no, you can’t have one,’” she said. “I’ve always been able to have access to any PPE I wanted … Now I think we have a system down, and it’s less anxiety.”

St. Catherine April 22 accepted a donation of gowns and masks from the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, and Morales said the bevy of donations they have received have truly helped in the fight against COVID-19. The hospital has received donations of tie back and bunny suits.

Regarding St. Catherine staff reusing gowns, Morales said “We are giving out supplies for the staff to utilize and they have what they need in order to take care of their patients.”

O’Connor said the hospitals have been doing multiple things to aid the front line workers, including bringing in agency staff and repurposing staff from outpatient to inpatient services to add more hands on deck. The hospitals have developed quiet rooms for staff to catch their breath, and Silverman said St. Catherine has a service where staff can purchase basic items, they have little time to get from working long days during the pandemic. 

“It would be very foolish for us to not keep our staff safe,” O’Connor said. “Why would we possibly not be doing anything we can to keep them safe?”

After experiencing a stroke, Denise woke up to a shower of get well trinkets, flowers and balloons, but there was one item that stuck out to her the most − a handmade card that she could tell was crafted by a child. “The greeting card really made her day. It made her smile and brought her joy,” said her daughter, Nicole Wozny.

Wozny is an art educator at Park View Elementary School in Kings Park. Inspired by the greetings cards, the teacher decided to connect with the local hospital close to the school − St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown. She wanted to continue the same momentum by encouraging local students to participate in the art of healing by creating special holiday greeting cards to be distributed during key holidays in December.

“What an amazing feeling for my students to get the chance to enjoy the true meaning of the holidays by sharing their art,” said Wozny.

Many scholars and educators support art in schools as it has been demonstrated to improve self-esteem and confidence as well as cultivate empathy. While the holiday season is considered the most wonderful time of the year, it can be difficult for those healing and recovering in a hospital.

 “I thought how nice it would be, especially for patients who have no one visiting them or thinking of them,” said Wozny. “If every patient experiences a moment of joy from receiving a card − just as I know my mother did − our mission was accomplished.”

 The month-long Park View Greeting Project resulted in the creation of 400 cards, crafted by all the elementary students who were given creative range to inspire patients. 

Third-grade student council member Stella Roosa was thrilled to participate in the project coordinated by their art teacher. “I feel so happy to be able to do something for people − the cards are as special as they are,” said Stella. Another third-grade student council member, Owen Dorsey, added, “This was the best opportunity.” 

“At Park View Elementary we are committed to teaching students about service − so this project was aligned with our educational mission to teach the students to care for their community,” said Principal Kevin Storch. “This project cultivates service and kindness.” 

Park View Student Council students, Stella Roosa, Cassandra Chapman, Alexandra Faralan, Michael Reznick, Gabrielle Keaveny, Faith Hanley, Owen Dorsey, Ella Vicinanza, Samantha Katz, Dylan Schor, Lilah Goldman and Jack Krupp, along with Storch, Wozny and educators Traci Smith and Dana Farrell, delivered the cards on Dec. 13, just in time for the holiday season. 

 “We are very grateful to Mrs. Wozny and all the students at Park View Elementary School,” said St. Catherine of Siena’s President Jim O’Connor. “Their thoughtfulness and inspiring greetings will go a long way in lifting our patients’ spirits, bringing this special season alive through a heartfelt greeting card.”

Pictured with the students, from left, Park View staff member Carol Liguori; Park View Elementary School Principal Kevin Storch; art teacher Nicole Wozny; Park View teachers Dana Farrell and Traci Smith; St. Catherine of Siena’s President Jim O’Connor; St. Catherine of Siena’s Chief Medical Officer Mickel Khlat; and St. Catherine’s Community Outreach Coordinator John Perkins.

Photos courtesy of St. Catherine’s Medical Center

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Meet baby Leah!

New parents Luz Renderos and Nelson Orlando Albarracin welcomed 2019 with a new bundle of joy — baby girl Leah Isabella Albarracin. Baby Leah arrived at 3:44 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2019 and was the first baby born in the Maternity Department at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown. Special chimes rang throughout the hospital in celebration. Baby Leah was delivered by Dr. Dodis Kohan, weighing in at 6 pounds 15 ounces and was exactly 20 inches long.

 

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a man who was last seen at a Smithtown hospital in December.

Thomas Eastwood, 58, was last seen when he was discharged from Saint Catherine of Siena Medical Center, located at Route 25A,  Dec. 14, 2017. Eastwood was reported missing by his brother on December 30.

Eastwood, who is homeless, is white, 5 feet 11 inches tall and approximately 250 pounds.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252 or call 911.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that analyzes health policies, has created an interactive map so Americans can compare changes in their premiums and tax credits from the Affordable Care Act to the American Health Care Act. Image from the Kaiser Family Foundation Website

Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, since its inception in 2010, and after much adieu, a bill has finally been introduced to take its place.

The American Health Care Act has been met with opposition from both parties, while elected officials and hospital administrators weighed in on what the changes might mean for North Shore residents.

The most notable changes in the new health care plan compared to the existing one include an elimination of the individual mandate, which required all Americans to purchase health insurance or be subject to a fine — a sticking point for many Republicans on Obamacare; a cut of federal Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood for one year; adjusting tax credits based on age instead of income; and shifting Medicaid expansion set forth by Obamacare to the discretion of states instead of the federal government, among many others.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to deliver health policy analysis to the public, has created an interactive map on its website to illustrate the estimated changes in premiums paid and tax credits for several demographics from the ACA to the AHCA.

“This is bad news for New York. … We cannot support this legislation in its current form.”

—Kevin Dahill

Tax credits, or the amount a taxpayer can offset what is owed in federal income tax, are a component of both the current health care law and the proposed replacement, though their implementation is very different.

According to the map estimates, a 27-year-old living in Suffolk County making $30,000 per year would receive about 50 percent less in tax credits in 2020 if the new bill became law. A 27-year-old making $40,000 per year would see the tax credit slashed by only 14 percent, but a $10,000 raise would net that same 27-year-old an approximate additional 52 percent in tax credits under the AHCA compared to the ACA.

A 40-year-old Suffolk County resident making $30,000 annually would receive 24 percent less in tax credits, while a 40-year-old making $50,000 would see a 128 percent boost in tax credits. Additionally, a 40-year-old making $75,000 annually would receive $3,000 in tax credits — under Obamacare no tax credits would be received.

Similarly, a Suffolk County resident who is aged at least 60 and earns $75,000 per year would receive a $4,000 tax credit under the proposed bill, despite being ineligible for a tax credit under Obamacare. A 60-year-old making $30,000 annually would receive a 2 percent increase in tax credits.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who has said in the past he would like to maintain certain aspects of Obamacare, like allowing people aged 26 or younger to remain on their parents’ health plans and coverage for people with preexisting conditions, weighed in on the Republican plan in an emailed statement through spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena.

DiSiena reiterated Zeldin’s stance on kids remaining on parents plans and coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions, though she added he believes a smooth transition from the ACA to the new plan is the most important thing.

“Obamacare has resulted in higher premiums, higher deductibles, lost doctors and canceled policies, among many other challenges,” she said. “Deductibles are so high, many people now feel like they don’t even have insurance anymore. One-third of the counties in our country only have one option left under the exchange. That’s not choice. That’s a monopoly.”

“Deductibles are so high, many people now feel like they don’t even have insurance anymore. One-third of the counties in our country only have one option left under the exchange.”

—Lee Zeldin

DiSiena also sought to dispel what she called misconceptions being perpetuated about the new bill and what the policy might do to people’s coverage. She said no one will be kicked off Medicaid under the new bill, premiums might rise in the short term but are expected to be 10 percent lower by 2026 than their current levels, and the claim by the Congressional Budget Office that 24 million Americans covered under Obamacare would lose coverage can be attributed to people who were forced to purchase health care opting to go without.

DiSiena added Zeldin is generally supportive of the bill as written but intends to monitor proposed amendments.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) was far less supportive during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” March 14.

“We have to continue to point out that 24 million people are going to be kicked off, that their premiums are going to go up, that there’s a transfer of cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and raising premiums on senior citizens and others,” he said in the interview. “This is really a life and death thing.”

Suozzi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Kevin Dahill, president and CEO of Suburban Hospital Alliance, an organization that represents the advocacy interests of Long Island health systems including St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, issued a statement regarding the House bill March 13.

“The House bill neither truly repeals nor meaningfully replaces the Affordable Care Act,” Dahill said. “This is bad news for New York. … We cannot support this legislation in its current form.”

Chief Medical Officer at Huntington Hospital Michael Grosso said in an email his facility will continue to hold itself to the highest standards regardless of the federal health care law.

“That said, we must bear in mind as an informed citizenry that when effective, preventive health care is delayed or denied, society pays the price several times over,” Grosso said.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the bill today, March 23. House Republicans introduced several amendments to the original legislation earlier this week.

St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center of Smithtown will hold a Job Fair on Wednesday, Feb. 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. Positions are available for registered nurses, patient care assistants and certified nursing assistants in various departments at the hospital. On-site interviews will be held. Bring your resume and license. The fair will be located in the Conference Room in the lower level of the Nursing and Rehab Center at 52 Route 25A, Smithtown. Questions? Call 631-862-3000.

Nurses from St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center and St. Charles Hospital have a new contract. File photo by Alex Petroski

The final hurdle was cleared to avoid a work stoppage for nurses at two North Shore hospitals.

Registered nurses from St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson voted overwhelmingly to approve a new contract Nov. 10 — they had been working without a contract since March 2015.

The New York State Nurses Association identified inefficient staffing, health benefits and a pay increase as the key issues they wanted addressed during negotiations, and according to a statement, all three were achieved. Additional nurses will be added to shifts at both hospitals, nurses will receive a three percent pay increase and an increase in health benefits, according to a statement from the union.

After about 18-months of negotiations, the NYSNA and hospital administration from both facilities reached a tentative agreement for a new contract to avoid a work stoppage Nov. 5, and the Nov. 10 vote made it official.

“Nurses at St. Catherine are always willing to stand up for safe patient care.”

— Tammy Miller

“The nurses at St. Charles Hospital are happy to ratify an agreement that protects both nurses and patients,” Tracy Kosciuk, RN and president of the local bargaining unit at St. Charles Hospital, said in a statement. “The issues were so important to our nurses that we took a strike vote that overwhelmingly passed, by a vote of 96 percent, and we were willing to hold a two-day strike. We are grateful to have a union behind us to speak up and educate the community on these important issues, and we look forward to working with the community in the future.”

Kosciuk, who has been at the hospital for nearly three decades, said in a phone interview last week that the tentative agreement was reached in part thanks to a “marathon” negotiating session that spanned from the afternoon Nov. 4 until about 9 a.m. Nov. 5. Nurses at both hospitals, who are among about 40,000 in New York State represented by the NYSNA, had voted to authorize the union to give notice of a strike in October, though that never manifested.

“I’m happy with what we were able to retain in regards to nurse-patient ratio with the intensive care unit,” Kosciuk said. Typically six nurses are staffed for shifts in the ICU, though Lorraine Incarnato, a nurse at St. Catherine’s in the ICU for nearly 30 years, said, during a picket outside of the hospital in April, she frequently worked shifts with five or even four nurses on duty.

“It’s causing a lot of friction between administration and staff,” Incarnato said in April. “When you have staff working always short [staffed], always extra, and then knowing that there’s not the respect factor there, they’re unhappy. Unhappy staff doesn’t keep patients happy. We try to put on a really happy face, because the patients come first.”

Administration members from both hospitals were also glad to avoid a work stoppage.

Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“We are pleased to have reached a fair settlement and I’d like to commend both bargaining teams who worked very hard to reach this agreement,” Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at St. Charles Jim O’Connor said in a statement prior to the vote. “St. Charles Hospital is proud of our professional nursing staff and the high quality of care they provide to the members of our community.”

Leadership from St. Catherine of Siena expressed a similar sentiment.

“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement which is subject to ratification by NYSNA members at our hospital,” St. Catherine’s Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Paul J. Rowland said in a statement last week.

The more-than-a-year-and-a-half negotiating session featured pickets at both hospitals, with nurses frustrated by inadequate staffing and seeking better health benefits and a pay increase in their next contract.

“All of these issues affect retention and recruitment,” Tammy Miller, a nurse at St. Catherine of Siena, said in a statement in October. “Keeping and attracting experienced nurses are essential to quality care.”

Miller was proud of the efforts put forth by the union and nursing staff since their contract expired.

“Nurses at St. Catherine are always willing to stand up for safe patient care,” she said in a statement after the vote.

Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

By Alex Petroski

Registered nurses at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson have been working without a contract since March 2015, but they may be nearing a tipping point.

Nurses from both hospitals voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike this week, according to a statement dated Oct. 17 from the New York State Nurses Association, a union that represents about 40,000 registered nurses in the state.

Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“We are very frustrated with management,” Tracy Kosciuk, a St. Charles nurse in the maternal child unit who has been with the hospital for nearly three decades, said in a statement. Kosciuk is also the president of the union’s executive committee for St. Charles. “We feel a total lack of respect. Our community appreciates our dedication and management should too.”

Spokespersons from both hospitals responded to the union’s actions in emailed statements.

“We are working diligently to resolve all issues and have made great progress toward that goal,” separate statements from St. Charles executive director for public and external affairs, Marilyn Fabbricante, and St. Catherine’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Paul Rowland, each said. “We look forward to a mutually satisfactory collective bargaining agreement which rewards our nurses and meets the needs of our hospitals.”

Fabbricante added that St. Charles has not yet been informed by the union of plans to go on strike. Carl Ginsburg, a spokesman for the union, said they have strike authorizations from members at both hospitals, though negotiations are ongoing and no dates have been determined for the strikes. Unions are required to give health care institutions at least 10 days notice prior to a strike, according to the National Labor Relations Board — and Ginsburg said that had not yet occurred.

According to the release from the union, its members are frustrated by inadequate staffing and are seeking better health benefits and a pay increase in their next contract. In 1995, performance of nurses and other health care professionals became subject to ratings based on patient surveys conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, according to its website.

“You can’t have two people lifting a patient all the time…When people are going out with back injuries, then [hospital administration members] wonder why.”

—Dawn Bailey

“All of these issues affect retention and recruitment,” Tammy Miller, a nurse at St. Catherine of Siena, said in a statement. “Keeping and attracting experienced nurses are essential to quality care.”

Dawn Bailey, a registered nurse and labor bargaining unit executive committee member of the NYS Nurses Association, said during a picket outside the Smithtown medical center in April that working a shift without adequate staff can be dangerous not only for patients, but for nurses as well, on top of the potential damage it can do to ratings.

“You can’t have two people lifting a patient all the time because there’s not that other person available,” Bailey said. “When people are going out with back injuries, then [members of hospital administration] wonder why.”

Kosciuk expressed a similar sentiment during a picket in April.

“Unfortunately the mentality … nowadays in the industry is [that] all hospitals are short staffed,” she said. “That’s not acceptable to have that mind-set.”

Victoria Espinoza contributed reporting for this story.

File photo.

A 7-year-old girl’s skull was fractured on Monday night when a driver, who was allegedly on drugs, crashed into a minivan in Hauppauge.

The Suffolk County Police Department said the incident occurred around 7:15 p.m., when 21-year-old Brandon Cumberbatch was driving south on Route 111 just past Kings Highway and hit the minivan, which was moving in the same direction. Inside the minivan were 40-year-old driver Arunima Singh and her two children, 18-year-old Avaneesh and 7-year-old Bhaswi.

After striking the van, police said, Cumberbatch, a Ridge resident, then veered onto the shoulder, over the curb and into the Hauppauge Plaza parking lot, where he hit a parked, unoccupied vehicle.

The family was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, police said, where Arunima and Avaneesh Singh were treated for minor injuries and Bhaswi was listed in serious condition with a fractured skull and facial injuries.

Police arrested Cumberbatch and charged him with driving while impaired by drugs. He was under observation at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown and will be arraigned at a later date.

Attorney information for Cumberbatch was not immediately available.

Police impounded both the defendant’s vehicle, a 2002 Chevy Impala, and the 2008 Toyota minivan for safety checks.

Detectives from the SCPD Vehicular Crime Unit are investigating the crash.

Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is asked to call the detectives at 631-852-6555.

A memorial area is decorated outside of the church Monica Peterman once attended. Photo from Holy Church of Christ

It has been one year without Smithtown hospital worker Monica Peterman, but her name was memorialized forever outside the church her family frequents.

Peterman, 45, was killed on June 14, 2014, in a car crash on the same route she often drove between her home in Middle Island and Smithtown’s St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, where she worked. Her family has spent the better part of the past year in courtrooms, to learn the fate of the man accused of crashing into her — Setauket cardiologist Thomas Stavola — but took a step back this week to remember Peterman as a daughter, mother and wife.

The Peterman family gathered with members of the Holy Church of Christ congregation in Central Islip on Sunday to unveil a memorial garden and seating area outside of the church created in Peterman’s memory.

Despite the uncertainty of the ongoing court cases, the family said it was important to pay tribute to the impact Peterman had on their lives, and vice versa, on the one-year anniversary of her death.

Peterman’s children and husband spoke of the horrific memory of the day they lost their mother and wife while fighting back tears on Sunday afternoon.

“Thank you for playing a part in my wife’s life,” said Russel Peterman, Monica’s husband, in a video of the ceremony on Sunday. “Just thank you, and thank you and thank you.”

A memorial was erected outside the church with donations collected throughout the entire Holy Church of Christ community. Later this summer, a bench, complete with an etching of Monica Peterman’s name, will be added to the area.

A spokeswoman for St. Catherine said in an email that Peterman, who worked at the hospital for more than 10 years, was known as a dedicated and well-respected worker and will be greatly missed.

Stavola, 55, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated— a misdemeanor — after the June 14 crash killed the Middle Island native and mother of three, the Suffolk County Police Department said. He pleaded not guilty to the second-degree manslaughter charge, which was upgraded from the original driving while intoxicated charge, as Peterman’s family looked on. He was released on continuation of the $250,000 bond he posted last month, District Attorney Tom Spota said.

Peterman’s family filed a $20 million civil suit against Stavola last summer, with hopes of sending the greater message that driving while intoxicated should warrant strict penalties, according to  Barbara Sims, Peterman’s mother. Family members and friends memorialized the Middle Island mother back in October with a commemorative plaque placed inside the hospital, where she worked for more than a decade.

Stavola’s next court appearance was scheduled for June 26 at 9 a.m. His attorney did not return requests seeking comment.

Spota said the impact of the collision embedded the front license plate of Stavola’s 2013 Audi into Peterman’s 2009 Mercedes side door. His blood, which officers drew 90 minutes after the crash, had a blood alcohol level of .10, Spota said.

Witnesses then helped give officers a description of Stavola, who called for help over the air to nearby patrols. A police sergeant on his way to the crash scene spotted Stavola walking briskly, with his head down, nearly 500 feet away from the crash, the district attorney said. Stavola, a doctor with Stony Brook Community Medical’s North Suffolk Cardiology, was treated at Stony Brook Hospital for minor injuries.