Coronavirus Update (March 22): East End Hospitals Brace for Patients, Seek Community Help

Pictured Above: Workers set up tents for potential emergency room overflow in front of the Parrish Memorial Hall at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital March 13.

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Across the East End, hospitals this weekend provided updates on their preparations for accepting Covid-19 patients, in anticipation of an influx of new cases in the coming weeks.

Hospitals are also reaching out to let community members know what they can do to help.

At Local Hospitals

Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead announced Sunday that it has completed a 16 bed Covid-19 unit in the shell space of the new Corey Critical Care Pavilion, which was intended for future expansion of the Emergency Department.

At the ceremonial groundbreaking.
At the 2019 groundbreaking for the Corey Critical Care Pavilion.

PBMC has also signed a lease with the Diocese of Rockville Center to use the former Mercy High School property behind the hospital, and the Mercy buildings if necessary.

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport announced Saturday that it has opened up a Covid-19 unit with dedicated staff to house patients who have tested positive or are “under investigation” for Covid-19.

The hospital is also working to create three additional negative air pressure rooms to house Covid-19 patients, after which the hospital will have six negative pressure rooms, two of which will be in the emergency department.

Stony Brook ELIH is still awaiting FDA approval to test for Covid-19, and “we are hoping to ramp this up by the first or second week in April,” said the hospital’s chief administrative officer, Paul Connor, in a letter to the community on Saturday.

“We are creating a plan to expand beds to handle a surge in COVID-19 patients,” he added. “This is done in conjunction with Stony Brook University Hospital and Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.”

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, in conjunction with Stony Brook Medicine, has activated a Hospital Incident Command Center (HICS) that convenes once a day “to hear reports from the ambulatory and other departments. This helps us provide the best possible patient care, protect our healthcare providers, review the supply chain, allocate bed needs, ensure proper staffing, and establish and maintain the best isolation procedures and more,” according to a March 20 statement from the hospital.

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has installed a forward triage at the entrance to its Emergency Department, with English and Spanish signage asking patients to use the camera on their phone to get instructions from a nurse on how to don a mask before entering the Emergency Room.

The hospital is sending patient samples to the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Laboratories in Albany. Results may take 3 to 5 days, during which time the patient remains in isolation.

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has also converted its Parrish Memorial Hall to serve overflow from the Emergency Department.

“In the event of a surge, we are working to significantly increase our capacity for overflow beds, both ICU and medical-surgical, and are reviewing equipment and staffing that may be required,” according to the hospital’s statement. “We have enlisted our medical residents and have other healthcare workers and staff standing-by, ready to deploy.”

Read our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus crisis.

Across the Region

In his daily conference call with reporters Sunday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county now knows of 962 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Suffolk County, though New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday morning there are 1,034 cases in Suffolk. Mr. Bellone said the county may not be aware of some of the state’s results.

The county executive, who has been giving his briefings from home under precautionary quarantine due to Deputy County Executive Peter Scully’s positive diagnosis for Covid-19 said Friday that he is now under mandatory quarantine after Chief Deputy County Executive Dennis Cohen tested positive for the disease.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott said on the conference call that, as of Sunday morning, 89 of Suffolk’s cases were hospitalized and 28 were in intensive care units. He said that, as of Sunday, there are 644 regular hospital beds available to coronavirus patients in Suffolk, out of a total of 2,626, and 86 ICU beds available, out of a total of 275.

As of Sunday afternoon, the county has reported there were 76 confirmed cases in Southold Town, 16 cases in Riverhead Town, 12 in Southampton, seven in East Hampton and 1 on Shelter Island. Suffolk County is now providing regular updates online. As of Sunday, 12 people in Suffolk had died from the disease, including four residents of Peconic Landing in Greenport.

“People are following the guidance and not going to the emergency room if it’s not necessary,” said Mr. Bellone, who added that more than 2,000 people with non-emergency symptoms had gotten tested for the virus at New York State’s Mobile Testing Site at Stony Brook University.

Testing at the mobile site is done by appointment only, and anyone who wants a test must call 1.888.364.3065 to be triaged to see if testing is medically indicated. Northwell Health’s GoHealth clinics in Bridgehampton, Hampton Bays and Riverhead are also testing patients who meet the criteria for testing.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is also working with the Army Corps of Engineers to set up a field hospital at Stony Brook University.

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How You Can Help

The need for medical equipment for health care providers remains dire across New York State and in Suffolk County.

Mr. Bellone said Suffolk County will be accepting donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves and hospital gowns at the Suffolk County Fire Academy at 103 East Avenue in Yaphank Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning Monday, March 23.

New York State is also urging retired medical professionals and manufacturers to visit a special page on the New York State Department of Health’s website to volunteer their goods and services.

The New York Blood Center has cancelled all blood drives scheduled from March 23 through April 12 for the safety of donors and its staff, but there is still a dire need for blood. NYBC and local hospitals are urging healthy donors to set up an appointment to give blood at one of their centers, the nearest of which are in Ronkonkoma and Port Jefferson.

Peconic Bay Medical Center is welcoming the community’s help, and has set up a meal train to help provide meals and bottled water to emergency workers.

The hospital has also activated its internal response team: Team Lavender.

“This team has activated recharge stations across the hospital for staff members to take a moment to recharge while at work,” according to the hospital. “Team Lavender is also engaged in other small efforts to help reduce the stress and strain of the staff as they continue doing their dangerous work. Maintaining staffs’ sense of physical and emotional health is essential to providing good care.”

PBMC is also in need of surgical masks, goggles and N95 masks, which can be donated at the front door of the hospital. This includes construction-grade masks, where were recently approved by the CDC for use during this crisis.

The hospital is also asking the community to send artwork (no larger than 8.5×14) for patients who can’t receive visitors, and for staff members who need their day brightened.

Artwork can be mailed to Peconic Bay Medical Center, Healthcare Heroes, 1300 Roanoke Avenue, Riverhead, NY 11901 or dropped at the front entrance of the Medical Center with security.

PBMC is asking retired health care providers who are able to help to contact their human resources department at 631.548.6340.

PBMC is also accepting donations online.

“We have incurred so many expenses that were not planned for, so any support is greatly appreciated,” said PBMC CEO Andrew Mitchell and Deputy Executive Director Amy Loeb in an email Sunday to hospital supporters.

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport has set up a Meal Train website to help volunteers bring food to health care workers during the crisis.

Stony Brook ELIH is also hosting a donation drive, accepting boxed donations of personal protective equipment in-person and via mail. 

The hospital’s Community Relations Department is currently accepting face shields, N95 3M 1860 masks, protective eyewear, goggles, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and other supplies required for staff safety. The supplies will be distributed to medical personnel at Stony Brook ELIH to use while interacting with possible and known Covid-19 patients.

If members of the community have medical supplies that are in unopened boxes, or comfort care items to donate, they should contact Foundation Vice President Linda Sweeney Vice at 631.477.5164 or 631.477.5100 so a drop off time and location can be arranged and donations be put into the right hands quickly. Scheduled appointments are recommended.

“Throughout the hospital’s history, our community never wavered in their commitment to sustain our day-to-day operations,” said Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital CAO Paul Connor. “There is no better example of this dedication than the added extra willingness that our local businesses and residents have shown with their unwavering support.”

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is asking any prospective donors to email Steven Bernstein at steven.bernstein@stonybrookmedicine.edu “so he can best direct your donation.”

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is also accepting digital photographs of children’s artwork to brighten up the hospital via email at sbsh_info@stonybrookmedicine.edu through March 25. They’re asking parents to sign the front of the work with the child’s first name and age, to be shared in an in-house and social media “exhibition” titled “My Happy Place on the East End.”

We will update this post as we receive more details about assisting East End hospitals.

Read our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus crisis.

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Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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