Pictured Above: Eric Abott, NA and Nancy Naughton, RN at the entrance to Stony Brook Southampton’s Covid-19 triage area. | SBSH photo

Update May 16:
As of May 16, Suffolk County has met the requirements and can now resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Original Story Follows

While hospitals on Long Island cannot yet resume elective surgeries as Covid-19 admissions slowly decline here, local hospitals are reaching out to let the public know that it is safe to seek medical care for emergencies, and that some services, like diagnostic radiological testing and detox and rehabilitation centers, are returning.

As of May 13, hospitals in 47 of New York’s 62 counties can resume elective surgeries, but Nassau and Suffolk, along with New York City and Westchester counties don’t yet meet the state guidelines to start up these surgeries again.

Counties that have a hospital capacity of more than 25 percent and that have had fewer than 10 new hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients in the past 10 days are able to resume elective surgeries, according to state guidelines, and counties that fall below these benchmarks after being permitted must stop performing elective surgeries, according to the state.

All patients must be tested for Covid-19 before their procedures can take place.

Most hospitals, even those that are non-profits, are dependent on elective surgeries to provide the cash flow that keeps the hospitals operational, and Covid-19 has strained them financially as well as logistically.

Suffolk County just had its first two days with no new hospitalizations on May 11 and 12, according to County Executive Steve Bellone, and the county’s hospital capacity has hovered around 30 percent for the past week.

As New York State begins to reopen its economy tomorrow, local hospitals are preparing to be able to resume elective surgeries soon.

“As a medical center and as a community, we have turned a corner and it appears better days are ahead,” said Peconic Bay Medical Center Medical Director Dr. Jean Cacciabaudo in a May 12 message to the hospital’s supporters laying out how the hospital plans to “return to a “new normal” of healthcare services.”

“Over the past few weeks, visits to our Emergency Department are significantly down,” she added. “We did see several unfortunate patients who were fearful of coming to the Emergency Department and who came later than they should have. A heart attack patient waited through the weekend; we could have prevented residual damage if he had come earlier. Another patient put off dealing with bleeding symptoms for weeks. When she finally came to the Emergency Department, she was so far into her illness we were not able to save her.”

Dr. Cacciabaudo said that the first surgeries to resume are critical cancer surgeries in the hospital’s Kanas Center for Advanced Surgery, which is a separate building on the hospital’s campus, with its own pre-op and recovery areas.

Peconic Bay Medical Center’s ICU nursing staff. | PBMC photo

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital reported earlier this week that “we are running a steady, but no longer growing census of confirmed Covid-19 inpatients.”

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital also urged people who are experiencing non-Covid medical emergencies to seek care.

“Anyone experiencing life-threatening symptoms, particularly those associated with a heart attack or stroke, or suffering an injury, should never hesitate to visit the Emergency Department. Every admitted patient is tested. Those suspected and/or experiencing symptoms are isolated,” according to the hospital.

“We take every precaution to protect and care for our patients and staff,” said Robert S. Chaloner, Chief Administrative Officer of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “To date, we are unaware of any patient contracting Covid-19 from visiting the hospital.”

“Thorough cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces are essential elements of an effective infection prevention program, particularly in fighting the spread of viruses such as COVID-19,” said Deborah Maile, Director for Infection Prevention at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “Our Environmental Services Team has been specially trained to use EPA-approved disinfectants and advanced UV-C machines as a ‘no touch’ method of room decontamination to annihilate pathogens on surfaces.”

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital cautioned that “we are hearing some good news about reopening businesses, [but] we do not yet want to become overconfident. We continue to see new cases and we all know the disease still lurks in our communities. We will rely on our governor, the public health authorities, and our system leadership at Stony Brook Medicine to let us know when we may start to reopen our elective and ambulatory programs. “

The hospital also shared the video below made by its ICU nursing staff.

“Patients are recovering and being discharged, and we applaud the extraordinary work being done by all of our courageous staff,” according to Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport. “Although there is still much work to be done, we are slowly but surely making our way down the other side of the COVID-19 curve. “

As of May 8, Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital has reopened its Quannacut inpatient detox and rehabilitation facility and is accepting new patients there, after closing the rehab center in case the hospital needed to use the beds for Covid-19 patients.

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital’s dietary staff joined in the team effort. | SBELIH Photo

The hospital has also resumed diagnostic mammography, CAT scans and ultrasound in its radiology department, and is offering outpatient laboratory services from 7:30 to 10 a.m. It is also providing outpatient physical therapy services at the Gladys Brooks Fitness Center in Southold.

Visitors are still not permitted at the East End’s hospitals, as per an order from New York State.

“Please don’t misunderstand: our community is still at risk. We should continue to practice the common-sense social distancing and hygiene habits that have enabled us to flatten the curve,” said Dr. Cacciabaudo, the PBMC Medical Director. “Through the worst of the crisis, we had a process in place to provide safe care to patients—both Covid and non-Covid. We were always ready to provide care to everyone.”

“Thanks to the heroic efforts and attention-to-detail of our staff members, we avoided the spread of the virus within our hospital,” she added. “We are really proud of our response. We’re proud we saved so many people’s lives and sent them home to their families. Our ventilation use and mortality rates were substantially lower than other hospitals in the published literature, including the most recent studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association…. We were actually able to share resources, like ventilators, with hospitals to the west.”

“We sincerely want our patients back,” she added. “We’re ready to serve all your healthcare needs. We promise to keep you safe.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she 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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