Patients praise ELIH

David Thompson (left) of HealthGrades presents Eastern Long Island Hospital president and CEO Paul Connor III (center) and board president Thomas Murray with a 2010-11 Outstanding Patient Experience Award during a press conference last Friday. Mr. Connor and Mr. Murray praised ELIH staff members for their hard work in earning the honor.

No.1 in Suffolk County; No. 2 on Long Island; and No. 3 in New York State.

Those are the high marks Eastern Long Island Hospital earned in a patient-satisfaction survey conducted by HealthGrades, a national organization that rates hospitals.

“Our little hospital is patient-approved,” ELIH board chairman Thomas Murray boasted at a press conference Friday morning at the hospital as David Thompson, from Colorado-based HealthGrades, presented the 2010-11 Outstanding Patient Experience Award to him and hospital president and CEO Paul Connor III. The hospital was one of eight in New York State and two on Long Island to receive the award.

Eastern Long Island Hospital ranks in the top 10 percent of hospitals nationwide in patient satisfaction, Mr. Thompson said. The organization analyzes data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provided through individual surveys done within 48 hours to six weeks after patients have been discharged from the hospital. There are 27 survey areas; they deal with physician and nurse communications, speed of responses, facility cleanliness, noise control and information provided about medications, among other topics.

In statistics released by HealthGrades, 74 percent of ELIH patients surveyed gave the hospital staff an overall rating of 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. Statewide, 58 percent of patients give their hospital staffs a ratings at 9 or 10 and, nationally, 66 percent do.

Asked if they would recommend the hospital to family and friends, 81 percent of Eastern Long Island Hospital’s surveyed patients said they would, compared with 62 percent statewide and 68 percent nationwide.

“It’s important to note that this is not a voluntary process,” Mr. Thompson said about hospitals choosing to participate in the survey process. “Hospitals cannot apply for the HealthGrades review,” he said. Instead, HealthGrades randomly surveys hospitals all over the country.

At the press conference, former patient Shawn Widmeyer-Natale of Southold told reporters that she gave the hospital a high rating, too. She had fainted after eating seafood, and was quickly diagnosed with a rare type of food poisoning by ELIH emergency room physicians and treated.

“I feel comfortable here,” she said. Eastern Long Island Hospital has been her choice for treatment for the past 10 years, she said.

Former patient Pat Foelsch of Cutchogue, who also was at the press conference, agreed. She has been admitted for treatment of a burst appendix, gall bladder surgery and a herniated belly, she said.

“In other hospitals, you’re a patient; here you’re a person,” she said. “They’re just wonderful. How could you not come here?” Ms. Foelsch said.

While Mr. Connor, who has been at the helm for 11 years, was hesitant to take credit for the award, he said it has been his job to protect what he was told when he arrived was “a little gem” of a hospital.

“This culture was here; this culture came from this community,” he said.

“We virtually rebuilt the hospital from the inside out over the past 10 years,” Mr. Connor said, pointing to technological advances and building expansions.

Medical director Dr. Lloyd Simon called it “the best care that can be provided at any hospital anywhere.”

“As far as I’m concerned, [the award] was a foregone conclusion,” Greenport Mayor David Nyce said at the press conference. “You have your community caring for your community.”

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