Featured Story
04/26/19 6:00am
04/26/2019 6:00 AM

After years of planning and development, The Phillips Family Cancer Center, in partnership with Stony Brook Medicine and the Southampton Hospital Association, opened its doors to the public during a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday.

(more…)
Featured Story
11/25/16 6:00am
11/25/2016 6:00 AM

PBMC

Despite a recommendation to approve Peconic Bay Medical Center’s application for a cardiac catheterization lab in favor of one proposed for Southampton Hospital, a committee of state Public Health and Health Planning Council members has approved both proposals.  READ

06/01/15 12:15pm
06/01/2015 12:15 PM

ELIH-webLeaders with Eastern Long Island Hospital had hoped to pick a partner organization by the end of May, but the Greenport hospital’s board of directors has instead decided to continue negotiations with a pair of the area’s largest health entities before making a final decision.

The board is now hoping to make that decision by mid-July. (more…)

04/02/15 4:48pm
04/02/2015 4:48 PM

ELIH-webLess than a week after PBMC Health publicly announced its plans to join North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Center, the East End Health Alliance voted to begin the process of breaking down the three-hospital relationship formed seven years ago.

Alliance chair Patricia Stewart, a board member with Southampton Hospital, confirmed news of the agency’s decision on Thursday afternoon. (more…)

11/24/13 4:00pm
11/24/2013 4:00 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Amber Abolafia of Orient plays with her daughter Dakota, 2, at Old Schoolhouse Park in East Marion, where she believes she was bit by a tick.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Amber Abolafia of Orient plays with her daughter Dakota, 2, at Old Schoolhouse Park in East Marion, where she believes she was bit by a tick.

Between daily naps and popping medicine to help with achy muscles and joints, 25-year-old Lyme disease patient Amber Abolafia of Orient has spent the last six months doctor shopping – looking for a physician who’s truly knowledgeable about her disease.

“It’s scary,” she said. “Our doctors are not informed enough and I don’t think they have the tools to be informed enough. There is just so much more to learn about the disease.”

Her struggle with Lyme led her to join more than 50 other area residents  many of whom also have issues with tick-borne illness – for an opportunity to hear from health experts at a special East Marion Community Association forum held last Saturday at the East Marion firehouse.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Rajeev Fernando of Southampton Hospital and Jerry Simons, certified physician’s assistant and expert contributor to the national publication Lyme Times magazine, spoke about illnesses common on the North Fork — and answered questions from anxious audience members.

The two have teamed up with Southampton Hospital to start the Tick Borne Disease Resource Center, which seeks to educate both health care professionals and the public about tick-borne illnesses — and the correct steps to take if one gets bitten.

The experts said differences in the way physicians test and treat patients can play a huge role in whether the patient is cured or left suffering and searching for answers.

“I am trying to just educate the local doctors and say, ‘This is what we should be doing,’ ” Dr. Fernando said.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an estimated 300,000 new cases of Lyme annually in the United States – a tenfold increase over the previous year’s estimate. Dr. Fernando said New York State leads the U.S. in reported cases.

“[The East End] is one of the worse tick areas in the country,” Mr. Simons said. “People in the area should be the smartest people on the planet about Lyme disease because it’s so bad out here.”

The experts spent most of their time discussing Lyme, which is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. The tick’s bite transfers the bacteria, which can cause fever, headache and fatigue and sometimes — less than half the time, according to Dr. Fernando — leaves a distinguishing bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite.

If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, the nervous system and the brain, Dr. Fernando said.

Like many other diseases, Lyme disease comes in different strains — and experts warned those attending Saturday’s forum that not all tests check for all strains. Where patients get tested can also play a role in whether they are properly diagnosed, Mr. Simons said.

Commercial blood testing labs, such as Quest Diagnostics, test only for strains required by CDC and Food and Drug Administration. Mr. Simons suggested instead that people find a lab that tests for almost all known strains of the bacteria, such as one of the labs run by Stony Brook University.

While being tested for Lyme, they said, patients should also ask to be tested for other tick-borne diseases, because ticks can carry more than one disease, potentially giving people what’s called co-infections.

“It’s not unreasonable to ask your physician for a four-panel tick-borne disease test,” Dr. Fernando said.

The test, known more commonly as a TBD4 test, checks for Lyme, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis – the four most common tick-borne illnesses in this area, he said. Three of these will show up in tests almost immediately, but it can take up to four weeks for Lyme to register in any of these tests, Dr. Fernando said.

“Unfortunately a lot of doctors aren’t exposed to this and they do the blood test too soon,” he said. This means that some infected patients may walk away without being diagnosed. Should someone get bitten and see any sort of rash, Dr. Fernando said his suggested protocol would be to start antibiotic treatment and “tell your doctor it’s going to take four weeks to do the test.”

Ms. Abolafia of Orient was one of those Lyme disease patients who was tested the second she walked into a doctor’s office – about six days after she believed she was bitten. Luckily, she tested positive, she said.

But because of her ordeal, she’s now worried that she may be in the category of people who suffer from what’s known as chronic Lyme.

Ms. Abolafi a said she has been tested three times for the disease – and has gotten mixed results. In the past six-plus months, despite consulting several different doctors, she said she’s taken only 10 days’ worth of antibiotics, the minimum standard course of treatment according to CDC guidelines.

“If I could give advice to anyone, keep pushing your doctor until you get the care you need,” she said. “It’s never going to get better unless you become your own advocate.”

Dr. Fernando said there’s controversy regarding the treatment guidelines for patients who test positive for Lyme.

CDC guidelines for treating Lyme disease state that patients should be put on antibiotic such as Doxycycline for 10 to 21 days but Dr. Fernando said the guidelines should not be used as the end-all for all cases.

“The patient in front of you is what matters the most,” he said. “It’s important to think outside the guidelines in some cases.”

He said about 25 percent of patients may come back within six months of treatment, some suffering from chronic Lyme disease.

But experts are still fighting over whether this chronic stage of the disease even exists.

“It’s very political,” the doctor said.

[email protected]

04/20/13 7:00am
04/20/2013 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Peconic Bay Medical Center on Route 58.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Peconic Bay Medical Center on Route 58 received a high score from Consumer Reports.

Known for rating everything from cars to cribs, Consumer Reports released updated hospital safety ratings last month, giving two East End health care facilities the highest scores in the county.

Southampton Hospital led the county with a score of 58, followed closely by Peconic Bay Medical Center with 56. Both hospitals scored significantly higher than the national average of 49.

Only 10 of Suffolk County’s 13 hospitals were rated by the magazine. Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport was one of the three not included in the report, along with South Oaks Hospital in Amityville and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport.

Hospitals across the U.S. are now being rated by Consumer Reports — every six months — on a scale of 1 to 100 points, based on factors such as readmissions, communication and preventable infections.

“Preventable infections,” according to the report, include infections patients contracted after common surgical procedures in 2010; “bloodstream infections” include those patients contracted through the use of central-line catheters in 2011. Central-line catheters are placed in a large vein in a patient’s neck, chest or groin and are used to deliver medications, among other things.

Data for the ratings came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and state health departments. Information collected by the nonprofit American Hospital Association was also included.

Southampton Hospital did not report a single bloodstream infection in 2011, or any surgical site infections following its 65 surgical procedures in 2010, according to the report.

Peconic Bay reported a single surgical site infection in its 206 surgical procedures in 2010. Information on bloodstream infections at the Riverhead hospital was not cited in the report.

Seventy-nine percent of Southampton’s patients said they were well informed about new medications, according to the report, compared to only 67 percent at Peconic Bay, giving PBMC the lowest rating of any county hospital on that measure.

“PBMC is always looking for ways to improve our culture of safety,” Maureen Ruga, the hospital’s director of quality management, said in a statement responding to questions about the report. “We still have challenges, as evidenced in our scores.”

With an overall safety rating of 40, Stony Brook University Medical Center was rated “worse than average” at avoiding serious complications.

“There is always opportunity for additional improvement for all hospitals, and Stony Brook is committed to continually improving patient safety,” said Carolyn Santora, interim chief quality officer at Stony Brook. “A team of more than 100 nurses, administrators and physicians routinely assesses patient safety issues throughout the hospital so that they can be monitored, trended and addressed as needed.”

Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue, which received a 34, and St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, which earned a safety rating of 31, rounded out the lowest scores among Suffolk’s 10 rated hospitals.

But the ratings themselves don’t come without scrutiny.

Although Eastern Long Island Hospital was not included in the magazine’s report, Paul Connor, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said he gives little credence to the ratings.

Companies using the information to compare one hospital to another is not what the government-compiled information was designed for, he said.

“These companies are making a living out of slicing and dicing this, and showing which hospitals are best,” he said. “It’s confusing. People don’t know what to make of it.”

In support of that contention, Mr. Connor noted that in its first hospital safety report, Consumer Reports rated Peninsula Hospital Center in Far Rockaway the second-safest hospital in the region. Peninsula Hospital closed seven months later, in April 2012.

“They were closed for a number of reasons, one was a quality reason,” Mr. Connor said. Peninsula was “unable to stay solvent after its lab failed a state exam and was shut down by the New York State Health Department, which said the lab was dangerous for patients,” according to a New York Times story published May 20, 2012.

Mr. Connor said he suspected Eastern Long Island wasn’t included in the report in part because of its small size.

Consumer Reports’ ratings are only available through a paid subscription to the company’s magazine or website. It is one of several outlets offering hospital safety ratings. Hospital Compare, which is run by the federal government, and the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, run by a nonprofit that rates hospital safety, quality, and efficiency, also offer hospital safety information, but these are free to the public.

Mr. Connor recommends that patients seeking hospital safety information visit the government’s Hospital Compare website, saying the site offers more information to readers than Consumer Reports.

The safety ratings were issued March 21 and include updated ratings for 2,031 of the nation’s 5,724 hospitals. Consumer Reports released its first ratings report in August 2012, rating 1,159 institutions.

In the earlier report, Southampton Hospital placed in the bottom three in the county, with a score of 40, while Peconic Bay led the county with a 59.

Doris Peter, a data analyst with Consumer Reports, said differences between this year’s scores and last year’s can be attributed to updated government information on infections and how Consumer Reports decided to weigh the criteria, giving more weight to preventable infections.

Consumer Reports also dropped mortality rates as a criterion, which had been used in the August 2012 ratings, she said, because the government has stopped providing Consumer Reports with mortality data. Ms. Peter said she was unsure why.

Southampton Hospital made a concerted effort to improve its overall safety, said Dr. Fred Weinbaum, the hospital’s executive vice president and chief medical officer. “Infections are something we have made an effort on, really insisting on following all our protocols,” he said. “The fact that we worked at it and were able to improve we are very proud of.”

[email protected]

10/01/12 2:26pm
10/01/2012 2:26 PM

Stony Brook University, Southampton Hospital, East End Health Alliance

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The entrance of the former LIU campus in Southampton.

The former campus of Southampton College could become the new home of Southampton Hospital under an agreement being negotiated between Stony Brook University, which owns the campus, and Southampton Hospital, officials announced Monday.

Representatives with Stony Brook, which is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system and Southampton Hospital, which is privately run, have signed a non-binding letter of intent in which Southampton Hospital “would join the Stony Brook Medicine healthcare system, as the two hospitals work more closely to improve healthcare quality,” officials said.

Stony Brook Medicine is the healthcare system that runs Stony Brook University Hospital.

Under the proposal, Southampton Hospital would provide care under Stony Brook University Hospital’s state operating license, officials said.

Read more about the hospital plans