12/29/14 4:00pm
12/29/2014 4:00 PM
Peconic Bay Medical Center CEO Andy Mitchell. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Peconic Bay Medical Center CEO Andy Mitchell. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Health care reform brought with it a number of changes that affected hospitals nationwide throughout 2014, with quantifiable effects starting to become clear by the end of the first quarter.

We sat down with Andrew Mitchell, president and CEO of PBMC Health, to discuss the highs and the lows of the past year and the changes the community can expect come 2015. As expected, there was plenty to talk about.  (more…)

10/23/14 4:04pm
10/23/2014 4:04 PM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

The entrance to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. (Credit: file photo)

Officials from Stony Brook Medical Center and North Shore-LIJ medical care systems confirmed reports Thursday that they are in affiliation talks with both Peconic Bay Medical Center and Eastern Long Island Hospital.

The news comes two years after Southampton Hospital announced that it’s been in talks with Stony Brook. (more…)

05/24/14 4:00pm
05/24/2014 4:00 PM

New York Swing Dance Society dancers at last year’s Candlelight Ball, which was held at the Inn & Spa at East Wind in Wading River (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Peconic Bay Medical Center will be heading downtown next Saturday for its annual Candlelight Ball.

The Riverhead hospital’s annual fundraiser will be held in East Main Street’s historic Suffolk Theater, which reopened last year after extensive renovations.


12/30/13 3:00pm
12/30/2013 3:00 PM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The entrance to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Between opening up a new campus in Manorville in September and major changes in health care on the horizon, 2013 was a busy year for PBMC Health chief executive officer Andrew Mitchell.

Going into his 13th year on the job at the Riverhead-based facility, Mr. Mitchell has had to remain as flexible as ever as changing federal health care regulations dominated much of the industry in the past year.

Peconic Bay Medical Center CEO Andrew Mitchell.

But Mr. Mitchell was able to take a few minutes to fill the News-Review in on where the industry may be headed next year, while reflecting on what 2013 brought about for PBMC Health.

Q: Shortages in primary care have been reported nationwide. Do you believe that trend is affecting North Fork residents? If so how?

A: We’ve made major investments in primary care. We have numerous practice sites that are sponsored by the medical center all over the North and South forks and while we believe that primary care shortage is an issue, we are working diligently to ensure that residents have access to outstanding primary care physicians. We employ probably 15 or so primary care physicians who are distributed between the North and South forks.

Q: What types of outpatient care and/or facilities do you believe area residents are lacking most?

A: I don’t think it’s outpatient care they are lacking. I think the most significant issue is the lack of an advanced cardiac catheterization unit for East End residents. Patients who require cardiac catheterization, either on an emergency or elective basis, have to travel great distances to get that care, putting — quite frankly — their lives at risk.

When you look at the makeup of our population and the incidence of heart disease, it is absolutely the number one health issue for residents of the East End.

Q: Should area residents be more concerned than before about their likelihood of contracting a tick-borne disease?

A: No. I think virtually all of our primary care and infectious disease physicians are highly aware of the diseases associated with ticks and are very vigilant about monitoring patients for those potential diseases.

Q: The CDC calls antibiotic resistance ‘one of our most serious health threats.’ What steps is the hospital taking to ensure the safety of its patients?

A: It goes way beyond the hospital. We see ourselves today not as a hospital but as a fully integrated health system with ambulatory campuses, physician offices, home health agency, a skilled nursing facility — I could keep on going down the list. So antibiotic selection, antibiotic usage and the whole issue of antibiotic resistance is a focal point of the entire continuum of care of PBMC Health. Through our pharmacy and therapeutics committee and our quality management program, we look very carefully at the use of antibiotics, We look very carefully at their use in association with surgery and, since we are a health system, in the ambulatory and physician office environment as well.

Q: What concerns you most regarding the implementation of health care reform come January?

A: The change is happening very rapidly and implementation of health care reform has not always been happening according to the originally stated plan, so that requires health care systems like PBMC Health to adapt to the unplanned changes very quickly and to be very nimble in the current environment. So whether it’s the delayed implementation of the health care exchanges, the decision that small business doesn’t have to participate for another year — all those have an impact on the health system, and we need to make adjustments.

Changes being made by Medicare outside health care reform are happening just as dramatically and are causing us to make significant changes to the way we, and all hospitals, have to operate. That has to do with the so called “observation status” that has been created by Medicare.

Q: PBMC recently opened and continues to work on the Manorville campus. How will this advancement help handle the expected influx of patients with health care reform?

A: Health care reform is clearly changing the way the health care industry is proving care by incentivizing preventive and ambulatory care. So we think of the Manorville campus, The Gertrude & Louis Feil Campus, as our model ambulatory campus and we think it’s the wave of the future. I think one piece of really interesting data is that we’ve already seen volume levels that we anticipated in the third year of operation in what is now the third month.

It’s interesting; we’re seeing what’s clearly a national trend where convenience is very important to patients. What we’ve seen right out of the gate is a very, very high utilization of our urgent care center, where patients can walk in and get care without an appointment in an expeditious way – and not have to worry about taking a day off of work … I think in Manorville, because there was such a lack of physicians’ offices in the region, that what we’re really just seeing there is the actual demand from the community.

We plan to open more of these facilities in 2014.

Q: Are there any exciting changes or advancements planned for 2014?

A: We’re planning on continuing to expand our Manorville campus. Manorville has already been a success and it’s not even completed. We’ll be opening two more buildings on the campus in 2014 so it will be almost three- quarters completed next year. We’re looking to replicate that in other parts of the service area. We do have a multi-campus plan.

On the main campus we have some technology upgrades and program upgrades in surgery. We expect to open a surgical progressive care unit, another private room unit for higher acute surgical patients.

In 2014 we are going to focus our philanthropic initiatives around the growth of an endowment for the health system and we anticipate some major gifts that will allow us to build the surgical progressive care unit and upgrade our intensive care unit.

We’re also in the middle of a cosmetic remodeling of all the inpatient units. The private room inpatient units in the Kanas Center were received so well we are starting to replicate that appearance in the rest of the inpatient rooms.

[email protected]

10/25/13 7:00am
10/25/2013 7:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | ‘Cover yourself and protect your business,’ advised Alysia Doerbecker, senior district manager for ADP payroll services, at last Wednesday’s conference on health care and small businesses in Wading River.

As employers, employees and the unemployed across America continue to wrap their heads around new federal health insurance mandates – known to many simply as Obamacare — owners of local businesses, both large and small, were asking plenty of questions last week at a symposium designed to clue them in to the new rules and regulations and how it could affect their business models moving forward.

Experts at the event, “Taming Healthcare 2014,” gave a dose of advice to the business community Oct. 16 at the Inn & Spa at East Wind, offering tips for navigating the newly reformed health care system — which they described as a “moving target.”

Starting in 2015, businesses employing 50 or more full-time equivalent workers will be required to offer those employees affordable health insurance coverage or face penalty fees.

Andrew Mitchell, CEO of PBMC Health, delivered the keynote speech at the event – presented by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency and Peconic Bay Medical Center. He said employers are required to offer an insurance plan that covers at least 60 percent of medical expenses, which is the same percentage covered by the lowest plan on the public health insurance marketplace. At the same time, the plan’s monthly premium must be no more than 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income – otherwise it is considered “unaffordable,” according to the reform law.

This means what is affordable to one employee may not be to another, which in turn means added paperwork and oversight for employers to ensure they are in compliance, said Alysia Doerbecker, senior district manager for ADP payroll services.

“There is a laundry list of information that you need to be prepared for,” Ms. Doerbecker said.

As a result, she said, a proficient human resources system to keep tabs on all the information could be vital.

Should a company slip up, it may be subject to penalties or open itself to a lawsuit, said John Hudson, president of True Benefit, LLC, an employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm.

After 90 days, new employees become eligible to join the company’s health care plan, should they offer one, Mr. Hudson said. “You better track [those] employee[s] accurately. If they should have been offered coverage, it’s going to come back to you as an employer from a lawsuit perspective.”

To enforce the new regulations, Michael Vigliotta, an attorney at The Law Offices of Thomas M. Volz, said the Internal Revenue Service is hiring more than 6,500 new employees to ensure businesses are in compliance.

Susan Flatley, manager of North Fork Radiology, which has 60 full-time employees, said she was expecting added oversight, “but not to the extent of what I heard here today.”

And for those considering not offering affordable care, “the penalties are larger than I had anticipated,” she said. The penalty is generally equal to $2,000 for each full-time employee, excluding the first 30 employees. Should an employee enroll in the marketplace and qualify for a government subsidy, additional fees could be incurred.

Bruce Talmage, owner of Talmage Agway in Riverhead, has about 17 full-time employees, which puts him in the small business category.

“It sounds like I am not required to provide a health plan, but I currently do, and I am trying to understand the rules,” Mr. Talmage said. He said many of his questions have to do with his ever-changing work force because the store gets busier during the spring and summer landscaping seasons.

Talmage wears an interesting couple of hats, as he’s also involved with the nonprofit Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which has about 17 full-time employees. While the nonprofit has not offered health coverage in the past, he said they are looking into getting it.

As a small business, he is not required to offer health insurance, but there are tax incentives for small businesses that do so, according to the Small Business Assistance Program, a state-run nonprofit supporting affordable health insurance.

“If I do continue to offer one, does it have to be to every single employee? Is there a limit on the number of hours they work?” Mr. Talmage asked.

According to the law, as long as his work force does not exceed 50 full-time workers for more than 120 calendar days, he will still be considered a small business.

Raising even more questions for Talmage, the insurance plan he currently offers his employees will no longer be offered come Jan. 1, so it’s as if he is starting at square one, he said.

There are also unanswered questions on the health care provider side.

An estimated 57 million uninsured people stand to gain access to affordable health care, however there are already shortages of primary care physicians to provide it, said Dr. George Ruggierio, chief of family medicine and director of medical education at PBMC.

“Primary care physicians are already under strain. Who’s going to see these people?” Dr. Ruggierio said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the physician supply will increase by only 7 percent in the next 10 years, far less than the more than 36 percent increase in the patient population, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“There are concerns across the board – the insurance industry, hospitals and doctors trying to deliver care,” Dr. Ruggierio said.

Unfortunately, not all of the questions are answered yet, said Randy Blum, a representative from United Healthcare – an insurance provider offering coverage on New York’s insurance exchange. “At this point nobody knows what’s going to happen.”

While much remains uncertain for health care providers, small business owners seeking the right plan and employees themselves, Lauren McKissick, owner of Prominent Swimming Pools Inc. of Calverton – which has just a handful of employees – said that either way, she believes offering health benefits is important to keeping loyal employees.

“You don’t want to lose good people over insurance issues,” she said. “But is it going to be more affordable to workers if we break off and no longer offer it?”

[email protected]