07/27/13 10:00am
07/27/2013 10:00 AM

DAN GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | Deer ticks are behind a sudden surge in babesiosis cases on the East End.

Three East End hospitals have reported a spike in one of six tick-borne illnesses commonly seen on Long Island, hospital officials said.

Though Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are the best known, “this year we’ve seen a surge of babesiosis cases,” said Dr. Gary Rosenbaum, an infectious disease physician with Peconic Bay Medical Center.

Dr. Lawrence Schiff, director of emergency care at Eastern Long Island Hospital, and Deborah Maile, director of infection prevention at Southampton Hospital, also said they have seen an uptick in patients coming in with the disease.

Babesiosis is a curable illness spread by the blacklegged tick, otherwise known as the deer tick, said Daniel Gilrein, entomologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

The tick’s bite transfers pathogens that can trigger severe anemia in humans, killing red and white blood cells and platelets – especially in patients who are missing a spleen or have a weakened immune system, Dr. Rosenbaum said.

“[The initial symptoms] are the most severe of the six tick-borne diseases that we get here on Long Island,” Dr. Rosenbaum said.

Peconic Bay has treated about 13 patients for babesiosis since June, many of whom were landscapers and others who work outdoors, he said.

Four patients had been diagnosed with Lyme disease during that same period in the past month. Lyme disease, commonly known by the symptoms of a distinct bull’s eye rash, is also caused by the deer tick, Mr. Gilrein said.

Dr. Rosenbaum said hospital officials have also seen four cases of anaplasmosis, caused by deer tick; and one confirmed case of ehrlichiosis, caused by the lone star tick.

Southampton officials are currently working on getting lab results for about 50 patients with tick-borne illness symptoms, Ms. Maile said.

She has been working on putting together a data set comparing diagnoses year to year. In June the hospital reported 18 cases of babesiosis, up from 11 cases in June 2012. She said there has also been an increase in cases of Lyme.

Peconic Bay officials are urging patients to be on the lookout for symptoms.

“All of these illnesses are curable if caught early,” Dr. Rosenbaum said.

Common symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, dark urine, skin rashes and circular “bull’s-eye” rashes, he said. A person experiencing any of these symptoms should be checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, he said, advising that patients check themselves thoroughly for ticks – especially the scalp, groin areas, backside and armpits.

Like mosquitoes, ticks are attracted to carbon dioxide given off by humans and animals.

“A tick can detect your carbon dioxide from over a mile away and start coming towards you,” Dr. Rosenbaum said.

Mr. Gilrein said while he has yet to complete a tick population survey this season, he has received calls concerning an increase in lone star ticks in some areas.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County research group has a diagnostic lab in Riverhead that will identify ticks for a small fee, Mr. Gilrein said. While the lab does not test for which pathogens the ticks are carrying, he said having a tick identified can still be helpful for physicians. To have a tick identified, contact the diagnostic lab at Cornell at 631-727-4126 or visit http://ccesuffolk.org/new-page-2-143/ for more information.

cmiller@timesreview.com

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.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

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

03/18/11 12:06pm
03/18/2011 12:06 PM

Peconic Bay Medical Center will host a blood drive in its second floor conference rooms on Monday, March 21 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Blood donors must be in good general health, weigh at least 110 pounds and be between the ages of 17 and 75. With parental permission, 16-year-olds may also donate. Anyone 76 or older may be a blood donor, but must have a physician’s note of approval. Anyone who has had a tattoo within the the past 12 months isn’t eligible to donate blood.

Bring a picture of signature identification and a  Social Security number. Call 1-800-688-0900.