02/14/14 9:00am
02/14/2014 9:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Peconic Bay Medical Center on Route 58.

Peconic Bay Medical Center on Route 58. (File photo by Barbaraellen Koch photo)

East End hospitals are now accepting six out of eight insurance plans offered to Suffolk County residents through the state’s healthcare exchange marketplace, according to hospital officials.

(more…)

04/06/13 4:45pm
04/06/2013 4:45 PM

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

The three East End Hospitals and the Empire Blue Cross insurance company have announced an agreement that puts the health care facilities back into the Blue Cross network.

The hospitals — Eastern Long Island Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center and Southampton Hospital — announced the deal on their websites Saturday. They fell out of the network on March 31 when negotiations with Empire Blue Cross failed to replace the reimbursement agreement that expired that day.

The immediate impact for many Blue Cross customers was that the cost of elective surgery, such as for a joint replacement, would in most cases come in at the higher out-of-network rate.

The hospitals and the insurance company said additional details would be released at a later time.

02/17/13 12:00pm
02/17/2013 12:00 PM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

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

Hospitals routinely ask patients for feedback on their inpatient experiences. Since 2006, that effort has included a standardized patient survey developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that allows both statewide and nationwide hospital rankings and comparisons.

That survey, known as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS), recently took on a new importance. Eastern Long Island Hospital CEO Paul Connor said HCAHPS has now been linked to the amount of Medicare reimbursement a hospital ultimately receives from the federal government.

While a good score or high rank still offers bragging rights, less impressive performance could now cost a hospital up to 1 percent of its reimbursements. That variable doubles to 2 percent next year, Mr. Connor said.

“That’s 1 or 2 percent of the total revenue stream when we already basically break even, so positive responses are very important for us because there’s a lot of risk there,” he said.

Neither ELIH nor Peconic Bay was able to provide total dollar amounts for 2012 inpatient Medicare/Medicaid volume, which would indicate how much each hospital stands to lose as a result of the new process.

“It’s really too early to determine the loss or gain for any hospital because CMS is still crunching the numbers for 2012,” said Janine Logan, a representative of the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association.

However, Under the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, 1 percent of Medicare’s 2013 hospital reimbursement is already being withheld to allow CMS time to fully assess survey results and rate hospital performance.

How much of that 1 percent a hospital will ultimately forfeit, Mr. Connor said, depends not only on HCAHPS, which counts for 30 percent of the decision, but also on its performance in a separate rating on a dozen core measures for patient care, which counts for 70 percent of the outcome. Those core measures include whether heart attack patients receive proper medication within 30 minutes of arrival and whether pneumonia patients get the most appropriate initial antibiotics.

Asked about his hospital’s performance on the more heavily weighted core measures, Mr. Connor said ELIH is “basically consistent with what the core standards are. I think we’re performing at the standards, if not better.”

The current HCAHPS results show that ELIH exceeded state and national averages on five of the 10 survey questions. Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead fell short of state and national averages on all but one question, where it surpassed ELIH by a percentage point.

Of ELIH patients surveyed 79 percent reported they would “definitely” recommend the hospital to others.

“We’ve always felt we’ve had a very positive, high-touch culture here and that’s a reflection of the community,” Mr. Connor said. “It’s nothing I’ve done. It was here before I got here, though we do take an opportunity to foster it.”

As far as improvements go, he said, “We can always use improvement in communicating to the patient,” he said.

Another area in which Mr. Connor said improvement could be made concerned noise levels, a problem he said is common at most hospitals.

ELIH got its lowest score in this area, with only half the respondents reporting that the area around their room was always quiet at night. Still, that 50 percent rating exceeded New York’s state average of 49 percent. The national average was 60 percent.

“Hospitals are notoriously noisy in the evenings, which is an industry-wide problem and though I think we’ve done marginally better [than other hospitals] I think it’s something we can always improve,” Mr. Connor said.

Peconic Bay Medical Center also received its lowest score on this question, coming in at 40 percent.

ELIH’s second-lowest score came on the question of whether staff always explained medications before administering them. Here, its results matched the state average, with 58 percent reporting that such explanation were made, but fell short of the national average of 63 percent.

Peconic Bay Medical Center also received a lower-than-average 52 percent score in this category.

On the question of whether patients received information about what to do during recovery at home, 84 percent of PBMC patients said they received that information, which matched the nationwide average and beat ELIH by one percentage point. New York State’s average was 81 percent.

Repeated efforts to reach Peconic Bay Medical Center president and CEO Andy Mitchell for comment were unsuccessful.

HOW THEY FARED

Peconic Bay Medical Center

Best Scores

• 84 percent reported that YES, they were given information about what to do during their recovery at home. (N.Y., 81; U.S., 84)

• 73 percent reported that their doctors “always” communicated well. (N.Y., 77; U.S., 81)

Worst Scores

• 40 percent reported that the area around their room was “always” quiet at night. (N.Y., 49; U.S., 60)

• 46 percent reported that they “always” received help as soon as they wanted it. (N.Y., 59; U.S., 66)

Eastern Long Island Hospital 

Best Scores

• 83 percent reported that YES, they were given information about what to do during their recovery at home. (New York State average, 81; U.S. average, 84)

• 79 percent reported that YES, they would definitely recommend the hospital. (N.Y., 64; U.S., 70)

Worst Scores

• 50 percent reported that the area around their room was “always” quiet at night. (N.Y., 49; U.S., 60)

• 58 percent reported that staff “always” explained a medicine before giving it to them. (N.Y., 58; U.S., 63)

gvolpe@timesreview.com

01/25/13 5:11pm
01/25/2013 5:11 PM
COURTESY PHOTO | Toni Demeo, left, the first senatorial district's Woman of Distinction of 2012 and ELIH CEO Paul Connor.

COURTESY PHOTO | Toni Demeo, left, the first senatorial district’s Woman of Distinction of 2012 and ELIH CEO Paul Connor.

The search is on for the next “Woman of Distinction.”

In May, super-volunteer Toni DeMeo of Eastern Long Island Hospital was named 2012′s “Woman of Distinction” for the 1st Senatorial District. Now, Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) is seeking nominations for this year’s award, which honors exceptional achievement, personal excellence and outstanding, courageous or heroic actions on the part of a woman.

“In past years, honorees have joined me at a special reception in Albany to accept the Woman of Distinction award,” Mr. LaValle said. “Award recipients have had the opportunity to meet with a cross section of women from senate districts throughout New York whose hard work and dedication have helped enrich our state and communities.”

Ms. DeMeo, a Cutchogue resident, volunteered at ELIH for more than 15 years. She was chosen for the award from a pool of 10 residents.

Nominations for this year’s recipient for the 1st Senatorial District, which stretches from Port Jefferson across the East End, are accepted until April 5. Nominations can be made online.

gvolpe@timesreview.com

01/16/13 12:05pm
01/16/2013 12:05 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Dr. Jennifer Rich of Peconic Pediatrics examines 15-month-old Ava Curry of Riverhead before administering a second dose of the flu vaccine Jan. 11. Toddlers get the vaccine in two doses six weeks apart.

Local hospitals and doctors are seeing a jump in flu cases as reports from across the North Fork and Suffolk County show this year’s influenza season started earlier and is hitting harder than last year’s, medical professionals said.

According to the latest Centers for Disease Control data, 49 of the nation’s 54 jurisdictions are reporting regional or widespread flu activity. Roughly 28,000 cases of various flu strains have been reported since the end of September.

This year’s flu season peaked unusually early, in late December. It normally reaches its highest numbers in January and February.

Dr. Michael Catapano of the Stat Health clinic in Cutchogue, said he sees no drop in local flu cases since the peak.

“We’re seeing a lot more flu than we’ve seen in past few years I can remember,” he said.

Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead has seen more cases — in both positive diagnoses and in pure volume of flu-like symptoms — than last year, hospital officials said. The medical center could not provide exact statistics on this year’s number of cases. An official at Eastern Long Island Hospital also reported higher than usual numbers this year.

Though this year’s predominant strain doesn’t appear to be any more deadly than those of previous years, Dr. Catapano said the flu packs a punch.

“You have to remember the flu can kill you,” he said. “30,000 people die of the flu every year. It’s not a cold; it’s a very serious illness.”

People with flu should stay at home and rest, drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration and control the fever, medical professionals said.

The best defense against the flu is a flu shot, Dr. Catapano said, adding that his clinic ran out of flu serum in the fall. “It’s not too late to get one but it’s tough to find one,” Dr. Catapano said. “They’re very cheap and it’s better than getting sick.”

Having contracted the flu twice as a younger man, Dr. Catapano said he knows full well the value of the flu shot.

“I finally learned,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

11/01/12 4:54pm
11/01/2012 4:54 PM

Peconic Bay Medical Center is at capacity in the days following Hurricane Sandy as power outages and clean-up related injuries have brought many locals to the hospital.

Peconic Bay CEO Andy Mitchell said many people are visiting the emergency room because they can’t operate their electronic medical support equipment.  Mr. Mitchell also said the ER has been busy with people being treated for chain saw lacerations and heart attacks suffered while cleaning their yards.

“We filled up very quickly,” Mr. Mitchell said of patients visits. “We were an island of light in a sea of darkness for the next two days.”

The hospital has prolonged some discharges in order to make sure patients aren’t traveling on dangerous roads or returning to unsafe living conditions. There were about eight people from the shelter at Riverhead High School who were transported to the hospital Tuesday night after the shelter lost power.

The hospital lost power at around 4 p.m. Monday and it was restored by 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Mitchell said. But in between that time, the hospital had nearly five megawatts of emergency power running.

Mr. Mitchell described LIPA’s assistance throughout the storm as “amazing” because of its swiftness to restore the hospital’s power feeds on Route 58 and on Roanoke Avenue.

Things were back to normal as of yesterday, he said, and several robotic surgeries have even been completed.

Eileen Solomon, a spokeswoman for Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, said there was also an uptick in ER visits there.

ELIH maintained power and kept its emergency room open throughout the storm. The hospital ran on a generator for just three hours overnight Tuesday, Ms. Solomon said.

On Monday night, ELIH started to evacuate patients and sent them to either Peconic Bay Medical Center or Stony Brook University Medical Center. Ms. Solomon said North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Centers also helped transport patients prior to the storm.

ELIH’s drug and alcohol rehab patients went to Peconic Landing Monday evening and stayed there overnight with hospital staff. All 46 ELIH patients that were evacuated started returning to the hospital Tuesday and Wednesday, she said.

“It went very smoothly,” Ms. Solomon said of the evacuation process. “Everyone worked together and pulled through … [It’s] business as usual now.”

Mr. Mitchell also praised his employees for their hard work, putting in long hours and camping out at the facility through the duration of the storm. He said a decision was made to have all three shifts arrive at the hospital by Monday afternoon.

Mr. Mitchell said the hospital is establishing a PBMC Employee Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund in order to assist employees whose properties were damaged by the storm while they were working. He said hospital board members will match donations made by community members.

“Our staff was absolutely remarkable,” he said. “We had hundreds and hundreds of employees that put patient care ahead of their own families.”

Mr. Mitchell said he believes the volume of patients will begin to decrease as more power is restored in residential areas.

jennifer@timesreview.com