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Our hospital kept our patients and healthcare workers safe from COVID-19. Here’s how we plan to keep it that way.

PBMC_JeanCacciabaudo_032_Select 2.jpgBy Jean Cacciabaudo, MD

Chief Medical Officer, Peconic Bay Medical Center

As a medical center and as a community, we have turned a corner and it appears better days are ahead. I want to share with the community how Peconic Bay Medical Center is preparing to return to a “new normal” level of healthcare services.

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.

But at Peconic Bay Medical Center, we want to encourage the residents of the East End to start moving beyond a single-minded focus on the COVID-19 virus and return to caring for all of your own and your family’s medical needs. 

Over the past few weeks, visits to our Emergency Department are significantly down. After what we have been through together, we are better prepared than ever to help people. Our capacity and our capabilities have never been greater. We are ready for you, and you can trust us to keep you safe. We are proud to be the team you trust the most.

People are frightened. We get it.

As a mom and as someone who also takes care of her parents, I understand the concerns about bringing loved ones and yourself to an Emergency Department in the midst of a pandemic.  

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.

Regrettably, we were not able to save everyone, and it was heart-breaking to care for patients who were not able to physically say goodbye to their loved ones. In those times, our staff members became their families to assure they were surrounded by love and care.

We did the hard work to keep our patients safe. And we succeeded.

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.

We recognized the need for preparation and started working on it as early as February—not just for the surge, but also for this phase we’re in now. We were already lining up our surgeries that needed to be paused, waiting for the right time to bring these patients back.

Our first COVID-19 patient was admitted in mid-March. By then we had gathered our resources and supplies, waiting for the surge that followed. Our early planning allowed our response to be so successful.

Thanks to the heroic efforts and attention-to-detail of our staff members, we avoided the spread of the virus within our hospital. 

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 always able to secure whatever materials our patients and providers needed. We were actually able to SHARE resources, like ventilators, with hospitals to the west.

We’re leading the way forward with much-needed surgeries.

As a community hospital that feels incredibly connected to our neighbors and their loved ones who live and work here on the East End, we feel responsible for all of them. As the eastern hub of Northwell Health and the East End’s largest, best-equipped and most well-staffed healthcare resource, we are also responsible for leading the way forward. 

That is why Peconic Bay Medical Center has become the region’s go-to resource for critical cancer surgeries and post-surgical care. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, we (and all area hospitals) suspended all “elective” surgeries. But the need for some surgeries is greater than for others. Some just can’t wait. As we re-start our elective surgery program, the first wave of surgical patients included many with colon, breast, and gynecologic cancers. 

Some of the reasons Peconic Bay Medical Center is the go-to choice for these surgeries include the high-tech safety features of the operating suites in our Kanas Center for Advanced Surgery, which is an entirely separate building on our campus, with its own pre-op and recovery areas. We also feature the DaVinci Robotic Surgery system, which is an important tool for managing complex gynecologic, gastrointestinal, colon and pelvic surgeries. Our DaVinci system has been specially fitted with an ultra-fine-particle filtration system to make it safe for use in the COVID-19 era. 

TeleHealth, TeleVisit, Tell your friends.

In some ways, the COVID-19 crisis has forced us to find new and better ways of staying connected with our friends, our families, and our patients. Expanding our use of Telemedicine was one of our first responses to the need for social distancing. Using Patient Portals to communicate with patients through TeleHealth channels actually increased many of our physicians’ interactions with their patients. Scheduling of virtual TeleHealth visits using secured video platforms has brought the concept of Doctor’s Housecalls into the 21st Century. It was really a gift to be able to stay connected to our patients.

Going beyond is now the new normal.

It has been an inspiration to work alongside so many healthcare heroes who risked their lives to save the lives of our patients. Our colleagues in housekeeping, maintenance, food service and transportation worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the nurses, doctors, PAs, respiratory therapists and other staff members, all coordinating their efforts and supporting each other.  “Going beyond” was an everyday experience. It was not just a responsibility but an honor to be among those on the front line.

In return, we experienced a heartwarming, unexpected, and completely overwhelming response from the community. There was the Tractor and Fire Department Parades, the Meal Train, a Blue Angels fly-over—we never anticipated that show of support and love. I personally have been so humbled and honored to be a member of this community. Every day is absolutely a blessing. 

There are still many unknowns in how we battle this virus. We at Peconic Bay Medical Center remain committed to keep the virus in check. But we are also determined to do our best to address the full range of healthcare needs of our community. And that includes reminding our residents that there is more to life and health than just the virus.

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