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…)

01/05/14 10:00am
01/05/2014 10:00 AM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | At Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, individuals dealing with epilepsy met recently to discuss their experiences.

Sitting around a conference table at Peconic Bay Medical Center on a recent Monday evening, a group of eight individuals met to discuss experiences with a somewhat common disorder — epilepsy.

A person who has two or more “unprovoked” seizures is considered to have epilepsy. While many factors, such as a high fever or lack of oxygen, can cause seizures, those happening without such causes are attributed to epilepsy.

One in 10 adults will suffer from a seizure sometime during their lives, according to the nonprofit Epilepsy Foundation, and epilepsy is the third most common neurologic disorder in the United States after Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

Group members, ranging from sufferers’ aunts and grandmothers to those living with the disorder themselves, each gave advice based on their own experiences — offering fellow group members a common sentiment: “You’re not alone.”

“We’re out here on the East End, and it can feel like we are alone. It is very hard sometimes,” said Charlie Peterson, who has been dealing with epilepsy for most of his life.

He started the Riverhead group so people could seek support from local community members.

Learning from those immediately affected by epilepsy is often just as important as hearing from health professionals, he said.

In people with epilepsy, instead of the brain’s sending electrical energy in an orderly manner, brain cells keep firing, causing a surge of energy through the brain. This surge often results in a seizure, according to the nonprofit. More than six different types of seizures are commonly associated with epilepsy and can include convulsions, muscle spasms and altered consciousness, but they can also be just odd sensations and brief episodes of staring into space, according to the foundation.

A woman named Charlene was visiting the group for the first time, seeking information on how to help her 6-year-old grandson, who was recently diagnosed with epilepsy.

He had a pacemaker-like device implanted in his chest, a treatment known as vagus nerve stimulation, something most group members had experience with themselves. Those with the implant hold a magnet-like tool up to their chest to activate the treatment, which delivers electrical stimulation to the brain to help when they feel a seizure coming on.

“He calls it his magic wand, and keeps it in his pocket,” Charlene said, adding that her grandson has been having trouble getting the device out of his pocket in time to activate it.

A man named Patrick, who volunteers with a North Fork fire department, offered some advice, noting that the magnets can be altered and set into bracelets, so that all the boy would have to do would be to hold is hand to his heart.

Patrick himself had dealt with the very same issue, he said.

Other topics discussed during the meeting included medications, diet and surgery options, along with some of the personal challenges each person had dealt with in recent weeks.

The support group is free and open to all. For more information contact Mr. Peterson at 740-1476 or 728-2804.

Got a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at cmiller@timesreview.com. Follow her on twitter @carriemiller01.

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.

cmiller@timesreview.com

12/27/13 3:24pm
12/27/2013 3:24 PM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

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

The Peconic Bay Medical Center’s director of general robotic surgery will make an appearance on a television program this evening to discuss the future of robots and technology in health care.

COURTESY PHOTO | Dr.

COURTESY PHOTO | Dr. Agostino Cervone.

Dr. Agostino Cervone will be interviewed on Fox Business News’ “Money with Melissa Francis” Friday between 5 and 6 p.m.

Dr. Cervone was featured in a Riverhead News-Review article last month about a new robotic surgical system that allows visiting surgeons to observe operations for training.

“Our robotic surgery program and highly skilled and dedicated team is committed to continually improving the health and well-being of the communities we serve through the pursuit of excellence in healthcare and state-of-the-art technology,” hospital president and CEO Andrew Mitchell said.

11/21/13 3:00pm
11/21/2013 3:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Michael Hubbard (left) hangs out with classmates in the Riverhead High School Interact Club Wednesday afternoon.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Michael Hubbard (left) hangs out with classmates in the Riverhead High School Interact Club Wednesday afternoon.

For the first time in two years, Michael Hubbard will be spending Thanksgiving at home, surrounded by family and a feast.

The Riverhead teen is still recovering from a gel candle explosion in May 2011 that severely burned him and lead to cardiac arrest and brain damage. Michael had been in rehab at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County since the accident.

But since returning to Peconic Bay Medical Center Health’s Skilled Nursing Facility this spring, Michael has been steadily improving, his mother, Nancy Reyer, said. He’s gone through a growth spurt and has gained weight thanks to a new diet.

Being back home — surrounded by medical and emotional support — has given him a noticeable boost, she said.

“He looks better,” Ms. Reyer said. “He has that little look to his face … He seems to be doing really well.”

Michael — who turned 17 in August — will leave the nursing facility next week to spend Thanksgiving with family, after a worker at PBMC offered to help, Ms. Reyer said.

“Coming to Peconic Bay Medical is nothing but a godsend,” she said.

Michael was also visited Wednesday afternoon by members of the Riverhead High School Interact Club, who decorated the common room at the Skilled Nursing Facility.

“You can’t teach compassion. You kind of have to show it,” said Allison Pressler, a parent of an Interact Club member and friend of Ms. Reyer who chaperoned the trip. “I was really proud.”

The students put up turkey decorations and spent time with Michael, who smiled and laughed, Ms. Reyer said. The Interact Club — which is affiliated with the Riverhead Rotary — also made Michael an honorary member.

The club plans to come back every month to redecorate the room and spend time with their classmate, who will graduate this spring from Riverhead High School with an honorary diploma.

Ms. Reyer said returning home has been a “reality check” as the family grapples with Michael’s ongoing medical care. But efforts like the Interact Club’s, fundraising efforts to build a full-time home at Brendan House on Sound Avenue – where he is expected to live – and the level of care he gets from nurses at the center eases her mind.

“[It's] the greatest comfort knowing that everyone here loves him,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

11/12/13 7:00am
11/12/2013 7:00 AM
Patients relying on Medicare to cover the costs of hospital care should ask additional questions next time they find themselves having to visit an area hospital — even if everything looks like it’s business as usual during a hospital stay.

As a notice from Eastern Long Island Hospital explained, patients could find themselves staying on an inpatient floor, sharing a room with an inpatient, and even receiving the same care as an inpatient – but still be considered an outpatient by Medicare. This can make them responsible for unexpected expenses.

A Medicare enrolled patient who has been admitted to a hospital is considered an inpatient, and would be covered under Medicare Part A, explained Maureen Ruga, director of quality management at Peconic Bay Medical Center. But a hospital patient can also be placed on “observation status,” making that person an outpatient  – in which case they would be covered under Medicare Part B, she said.

Part B holds beneficiaries responsible for deductibles for some testing and medication, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Effective Oct. 1, new Medicare & Medicaid Services rules make time the determining factor of whether a Medicare patient should be officially admitted to the hospital or not. Under those rules, if a physician expects a patient will require hospitalization for at least two overnight days, or two “midnights,” they should meet qualifications for admittance to the hospital.

If not, the patient will be placed on observation status.

“Patients should always ask if they are being admitted into the hospital as an inpatient. That is number one,” Ms. Ruga said. “If they are being treated on observation status, they should check with their physician each day to see if their status has changed.”

On Oct. 22., Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new law requiring state hospitals to provide Medicare beneficiaries with both oral and written notice within 24 hours if they are placed under observation during their hospital stay. Under the state law, the hospital must also explain how the status will affect the patient’s health insurance coverage – and give them the right to appeal the observation status.

The Medicare & Medicaid Services rules have been criticized by health care advocacy groups, including the StateWide Senior Action Council, because, Ms. Ruga said, Medicare “isn’t using diagnosis or care as the criteria for coverage, they are using a time frame.”

She said the quality of care patients receive should not be affected by Medicare billing.

Understanding one’s status during a hospital stay becomes especially important for patients who might need subsequent care at a skilled nursing facility, said Eric Hausman, Medicare consultant for the state Department for the Aging. According to the new rules, Medicare patients must spend at least three consecutive days as a hospital inpatient in order to qualify for Part A coverage for subsequent care at a skilled nursing facility.

Got a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at cmiller@timesreview.com. Follow her on twitter @carriemiller01.