Tag Archive | "Southampton Hospital"

Bishop Aids Health Alliance in Fight With Empire

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By Andrew Rudansky

With only 11 days left before Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield’s contract with several area hospitals expires, The East End Health Alliance, a partnership between Southampton Hospital, Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, and Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, is scrambling to return to the negotiating table. Congressman Tim Bishop, a Southampton native, intervening on behalf of the alliance held a press conference at the Southampton Hospital’s Parrish Memorial Hall this Monday, July 20 urging Empire BCBS to return to the negotiating table to renew the contract before the July 31 deadline.
“I don’t want to be melodramatic and suggest that we are on the verge of a health care crisis,” said Congressman Bishop, “but we are certainly on the verge of a tremendously adverse situation that affects public health on eastern Long Island.”
This situation should not be unfamiliar to many local residents, as this isn’t the first time the East End Health Alliance has run up against insurance companies. In May of 2008 with Oxford Health Insurance and then once again in September of 2008 with GHI/HIP, the Alliance both faced stern opposition at the negotiating table. In both of those cases the Alliance was able to successfully negotiate new contracts.

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Empire BCBS is much different than Oxford Health Insurance and GHI/HIP in terms of scope. Empire BCBS is Eastern Long Island’s largest health care provider, covering over 40% of all policy holders in the area. Many of these policy holders receive their Empire BCBS coverage from public schools and municipal jobs. The Alliance claims that they cover over 300,000 residents between the three of them, and if 40% of that number could no longer be covered by their insurance plan when they are admitted to those hospitals it would be, said Bishop, “intolerable and suggests that patient well-being is a secondary concern to [Empire BCBS’s] bottom line.”
Andrew J, Mitchell, President and CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center said, “There are so many different varieties of health plans within the Empire BCBS product line, that it would be very difficult to estimate the number of people” that would be unable to come to Alliance hospitals due to insurance problems. Mitchell added that without adequate reimbursement from the insurance companies, Alliance hospitals could not provide the same scope of services that they currently do provide.
“[Current negotiations] are really going nowhere,” said Paul Connor III, President of Eastern Long Island Hospital and spokesperson for the East End Health Alliance. Connor was impressed with Congressman Bishop’s interest in the issue. “Tim [Bishop] is a tremendous advocate for our hospitals and health care,” said Connor.
Bishop used the platform to reiterate his support for a government alternative to the current health care system. “This is exhibit A on why we need comprehensive health care reform,” said Bishop.
If the contract expires before a settlement can be made many local area Empire BCBS policy holders could be redirected to hospitals in Patchogue or Port Jefferson, or be required to pay “more expensive out-of-network rates.”
Even if the two sides fail to come to some sort of agreement before the July 21 deadline, New York State law mandates that all emergency patients or pregnant women in their first trimester be admitted to a hospital regardless of their insurance status. Also only Alliance hospitals will be affected and personal doctors will remain unaffected.
“I believe this status results from Empire’s failure to negotiate in good faith,” wrote the congressman in a letter addressed to Mark Wagar, president and CEO of Empire BCBS and Angela F. Braly, president and CEO of WellPoint. The letter, written directly after the press conference, stated that the Alliance hospitals are asking for reimbursement rates similar to ones they have with other insurance providers. Similarly, according to the letter, the rates proposed by Empire BCBS would result in a loss of $500 per day by hospitals.
“No reasonable person can think that this is sustainable, no reasonable person can describe Empire BCBS’s posture here as negotiating in good faith,” said Bishop at the press conference.
George D. Keckeisen, MD, president of the Southampton Hospital Medical Staff, said, “This is a problem that needs to be addressed…and we hope that with the pressure we can bring to bear from the both health care provides, both the physicians community and nurses, in addition and in conjunction with the hospitals administration…that the Blue Cross provider will actually come to the table and make a realistic proposal that we can all live with.”
Bishop’s strongly worded letter concluded with the congressman saying that he might request a federal investigation of unfair practices in the negotiations if Empire BCBS does not capitulate to what Bishop believes are more reasonable rates.

Top: Congressman Tim Bishop with Paul Connor III, spokesman for the East End Health Alliance, at Monday’s press conference.

Inset: Bruce LaValle, R.N., speaking with Jasmine Dozier, R.N. (left) and Diane Groneman, R.N. (right).

Bridgehampton Accident Leaves Watermill Man in Critical Condition

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On Sunday, July 12, a head-on car accident occurred on Montauk Highway near Poxabogue Lane in Bridgehampton at around 8:30 am after Fred Slaughter, 43, of Hackensack, New Jersey fell asleep at the wheel. According to Southampton Town Police, while asleep Slaughter crossed over the eastbound lane and onto the shoulder of the road when he awoke and swerved sharply to his right, striking an eastbound vehicle head-on near the center of the road. Police say the car that was hit was driven by a 41-year-old male resident of Watermill, whose name is being withheld pending family notification. When police arrived at the scene they found the 41-year-old seriously injured and trapped in his car, while Slaughter suffered only minor injuries. The Bridgehampton Fire Department responded and extricated the 41-year-old from the car and transported him to a landing zone where he was transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital by way of a Suffolk County Police Medi-Vac helicopter. Slaughter was taken to Southampton Hospital for his injuries. It was later determined that Slaughter’s driving privileges had been suspended eight times for numerous traffic infractions dating back to March 2008. Slaughter faces charges of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree, a misdemeanor, and failing to maintain his lane, a traffic infraction. Slaughter has already been treated and released from the hospital, but police say the 41-year-old is still in critical condition and suffering from life threatening injuries.

Locals Outraged Over New MTA Tax

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“Isn’t this taxation without representation? I thought we already went through this,” said Sag Harbor Variety Store owner Lisa Field when asked what she thought of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new payroll tax.

The tax, signed into law earlier this month, will require local businesses, including hospitals, schools and governments, to pay a 34 cent tax for every $100 of payroll. Suffolk County is set to pump millions of dollars into the MTA to help shore up the authority’s $1.8 million deficit. From the halls of the state assembly to the sidewalks of Main Street, people are saying the MTA is unfairly taxing Suffolk County residents for a service they rarely use and the county is in essence funding the New York City transportation system.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele contends the MTA package was made “behind closed doors” with officials, hailing from the New York Metropolitan area, leading the negotiations.

Back in March, Thiele seemed certain the tax wouldn’t be voted through, but the state legislature indeed passed it on May 6, after state senator Brian Foley of Long Island swayed the vote, allowing the package to pass by two votes in the senate.

“Between March and now a lot of arm twisting went on,” explained Thiele.

“I thought we were pretty effective in putting up a unified decision,” stated Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of the efforts made by local officials to oppose the payroll tax. “We have lost the power, and all of this money is leaving Long Island and going to New York City.”

Schneiderman maintains the East End is underserved by the MTA. Although the county contributed $250 million to the transit authority last year, the MTA currently runs just three trains on weekdays from the East End to New York City.

Geoff Lynch of the Hampton Jitney said the transit system works well in New York City because the authority services a small geographic area with a high density population. But on the East End, he added, a smaller population is spread out over a wide geographic area.

According to a press release from Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine, the county will pay around $520 million when the new MTA taxes and fees are enacted or about $347 per resident per year — on top of the taxes residents already pay toward the MTA. Schneiderman believes only 10 percent of Suffolk’s population, or 150,000 people, ride the LIRR.

“The county will pay around $3,000 to $4,000 per rider. We could lease each of them a car and we could forget about the trains,” argued Schneiderman.

When asked if East End residents will get more LIRR service in exchange for their contribution to the MTA payroll tax, Sam Zambuto of the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) said no.

“[The Payroll Tax] allows the LIRR to maintain the existing level of service and eliminates the service reductions that were slated for implementation,” Zambuto reported. “It also reduces the fare increase from an average of 26 percent to an average of 10 percent.”

MTA representative Kevin Ortiz said even with $1.8 billion in funds procured from the payroll tax and other fees, the MTA will still face a small deficit in the upcoming year. Ortiz argued that the new funds would bring additional wages to the county because the MTA uses the services of  subcontractors in Deer Park, and other Suffolk locations. He added the MTA’s capital plan would create $11.8 billion in wages and salaries in the 12 counties it services.

“They have to look at the big picture,” said Ortiz of Suffolk residents.

But local residents, from hospital administrators to business owners, say they are having a hard time seeing the “big picture.”

“Everybody that is in business out here will be subject to this new tax,” asserted Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris. He added that the tax will cost the village administration upwards of $10,000.

Southampton Hospital faces an even steeper tax burden because of its large payroll. Marsha Kenny, the director of public affairs, said the hospital had already closed its books for the 2009 budget when they learned of the tax. The hospital expects to pay $140,000 to the MTA this year.

Len Bernard, the Sag Harbor School District Business Manager, estimated the school will pay between $46,000 to $50,000 for the tax, though the state has promised to reimburse school districts.

“I am not at all confident the state will give funds to reimburse the school districts,” remarked school superintendent Dr. John Gratto. “I am concerned that if they do reimburse the school district for the tax it will come at the expense of general state aid.”

“I can point to every single line item on the budget and tell you how it benefits someone in the community, but I can’t with this,” continued Gratto. “We are just subsidizing New York City.”

Responding to the outrage of local communities over the payroll tax, the Suffolk County Legislature voted on Tuesday, May 12, to create a commission to conduct a feasibility study on Long Island seceding from the State of New York.

“We want it to be on the ballot next year as a non-binding referendum to create the State of Long Island,” said Schneiderman. “Every year we give the state about $8 billion but we only receive around $5 billion in services.”

Schneiderman conceded, however, that a state hasn’t successfully seceded since the 1860s, when West Virginia split from Virginia.

“I think this is more symbolic,” said Schneiderman. “We want to send a message to Albany that the present situation is unacceptable.”

Thiele believes Suffolk County constituents are feeling increasingly overburdened by state taxes, especially in light of the economic downturn.

“I have never seen a recession end by taxing people more,” he declared.

It may be that the MTA payroll tax will have a trickle down effect, with implications not just for business owners but patrons of Long Island restaurants and retail establishments as well.

“A lot of businesses in the area increase their prices in the summer and decrease their prices in the winter,” said Tora Matsuoka, co-owner of Sen and Phao Thai Kitchen. “Prior to finding out about this tax, [and a new beer and wine tax] my feelings were that we wouldn’t readjust our prices, but it is something we are considering … taxes in New York are stringent and I think it is driving people out of the state.”

Local Health Officials Say Swine Flu Over-hyped

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On Friday, May 1, Marsha Kenny the director of marketing for Southampton Hospital said there were no confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza A, commonly referred to as swine flu, in the county. By the time Monday rolled around, however, there were four confirmed cases, including three children from Deer Park.
News of the flu’s spread from Mexico to the U.S. has dominated the media in recent weeks and the outbreak has been likened to the 1918 pandemic of Spanish Influenza. Although the tally of confirmed national cases has climbed to 642, resulting in two deaths, local health officials say the deadliness of swine flu has been largely over-hyped.
“I think to some extent it is a media phenomenon — to another extent severe infectious diseases have cropped up periodically throughout history and have caused tremendous illness. I think we are all wondering when the next shoe will be dropped,” said Dr. Fred Weinbaum, chief medical officer at Southampton Hospital. “I think bio-terrorism created the mindfulness for catastrophe. That and the modern world is shrinking. We are linked by only a few days.”
Weinbaum added that the Spanish flu, which killed millions, was significantly more virulent than today’s swine flu. Most flu strains attack humans with a weak immune system, like children and the elderly. The Spanish flu, however, triggered a hyper-immune response and afflicted healthy individuals ranging in ages from 20 to 40 years old.
The swine flu, said Weinbaum, shares more similarities with the common seasonal flu. For instance, the symptoms for both strains are relatively the same and include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue and vomiting. Like the seasonal flu, swine flu is a respiratory illness. But unlike the common flu, Southampton Hospital officials say “the swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs that has changed its genetic composition to become a respiratory virus transmitted from person to person.”
They added, however, that the virus couldn’t be spread through eating cooked pork products.
If the swine flu reaches pandemic proportions, Kenny says the hospital is prepared and has an established emergency protocol. Weinbaum added that the Center for Disease Control would most likely dip into its stockpile of Tamiflu, a treatment for the virus, which would be distributed through local health departments to hospitals.
In the meantime, Weinbaum said Southampton Hospital is focusing their efforts on disseminating accurate and up-to-date information to the local community.
“I think the only preparation we can do is working together with local and state health authorities,” Weinbaum reported. “It’s more about getting information rapidly distributed. We are trying to dispel rumors and a sense of panic. We are trying to keep everyone from reaching conclusions based on hearsay and rumor.”
On Friday, Weinbaum held a conference call with local superintendents concerned about what to do if a student contracts swine flu. Weinbaum encouraged parents to keep their children home if they are sick, and said the same goes for school staff. He added that closing a school should be a collaborative decision between the state department of health, the county department of health and the school board. The New York State Department of Health has set-up a 24-hour toll-free hotline, at (800) 808-1987, to handle public concerns. Locally, Sag Harbor School District has posted an alert about swine flu on its website and the elementary school has distributed a letter to parents asking them to keep sick children at home.
It would appear the swine flu outbreak has yet to touch Sag Harbor directly, aside from interfering with one resident’s travel plans. Cati Van Milders was planning to spend this week in Mexico for a retreat, but it was canceled at the last minute because of the flu.
Asked if she would travel to Mexico anyway, Van Milders said, “No I wouldn’t have gone. I was a little apprehensive about being stuck on the plane and picking up something.”

Family Joins Suit Over Son’s Donated Organs

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When Lisa Koehne’s son Alex lay in a bed at Stony Brook University Hospital two years ago this month, she sensed there was something wrong other than what the doctors were telling her. Alex, had been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and after 17 days at the hospital, died on March 30, 2007.

But what Lisa and her husband Jim learned weeks later was that it was actually a rare and extremely aggressive form of cancer — anaplastic central nervous system T-cell lymphoma — that took their son’s life.

To compound their grief, they learned several months later that two of four patients who received organs from Alex had died, the organs themselves infected with the cancer.

Beginning early last year, lawyers for all four organ recipients started a series of suits against the medical center as well as Southampton Hospital, where Alex had been treated initially as an emergency patient, and where meningitis was first diagnosed by Dr. Robert Semlear, the family physician at the time, who is also named in the suit.

This week the Koehnes also joined the suit, arguing simply, the doctors and hospitals should have done more.

“We never got any answers from Stony Brook or Southampton,” said Jim Koehne in an interview Tuesday.

“We knew we would have to give depositions, and we asked ourselves if we wanted to go through this all again,” said Jim. “And we said, ‘yes we do, we want to know what happened’.”

Also named in the claims, which allege negligence in Alex’s misdiagnosis, are New York University Hospital and one of its physicians, Dr. Thomas Diflo, who performed one of the transplants, and doctors Kimberly Fenton, Salma Syed, Daniel Sloniewski and Mary Anderson — all associated with Stony Brook — and neurologist Norman Pflaster, of Southampton.

Alex was initially admitted to Southampton Hospital by Dr. Semlear, where he stayed for a week, and was released with antibiotics and pain killers, according to Mr. Koehne. Then days later, Alex’s extreme pain and sudden seizures drove the family to take him to Stony Brook, where doctors maintained the same bacterial meningitis diagnosis.

Southampton Hospital spokesperson Marsha Kenny said the hospital does not comment on issues of litigation.

Lauren Sheprow, spokesperson for Stony Brook University Medical Center responded “we do not comment on matters before the court or on any specific patient due to state and federal patient privacy laws.”

She added: “In general, every matter that involves organ donations or transplantation at SBUMC is handled according to the guidelines of UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), which has federal authority over organ donation and transplantation in the U.S., and New York Organ Donor Network, the local authority over organ donation as designated by UNOS.”

“Every organ donation case by its very nature is surrounded by tragic circumstances, and we grieve with families as they struggle to make a very personal and private decision at a very painful time,” she wrote in an email. “We admire the strength, compassion and commitment of those who help save the life of another through donation, even as they are suffering the pain of the loss of their own loved one.”

The firm of Dankner & Milstein initiated the first claim in January 2008 on behalf of Gerardo Trueba of the Bronx, who received one of Alex’s kidneys. The other kidney recipient was James Kelly of Mount Sinai, L.I. Both men, after learning of the true diagnosis, had the donated kidneys — which had been infected with cancer — removed. Both men underwent chemotherapy, which appears to have been successful said Adam Kauffman, an associate at Dankner & Millstein. Both men, however, also are on dialysis, and probably will be for life, he said.

The other recipients included Kitman Lee, a 52-year old hepatitis B cirrhosis patient of Brooklyn, who received Alex’s liver at NYU Medical Center. He also contracted the same cancer that killed Alex and died 116 days later. The recipient of Alex’s pancreas, 36-year old Jodie Lynn Shierts of Pequot Lakes, who had type 1 diabetes mellitus, had the donated pancreas removed, but died as a result of lymphoma.

The complaints allege that the hospitals failed to rule out meningitis through tests, the long onset of Alex’s illness, and the failure of antibiotics to cure it, and failed to seek any other cause for the illness. In addition, the complaints say the organs were released without confirmation of cause of death.

The Koehnes’ complaint is based on “the failure to diagnose their son’s true condition,” said firm partner Edward Milstein.

“As a result, their son didn’t receive treatment,” said Milstein, “he didn’t have the chance to benefit from treatment.”

Milstein added, however, they are not alleging that, even if Alex had received a prompt diagnosis or treatment, he would have survived.

Jim Koehne remembered this week when they were standing by their son at Stony Brook, his wife Lisa looking at Alex’s eyes and noting how one eye rolled a different way.

“’There’s something else wrong’,” he remembers her saying.

It was a mother’s intuition he felt was ignored.

 “I really feel the diagnosis was handled incorrectly,” said Mr. Koehne. “They could have looked in a different direction.”

Mr. Koehne acknowledges the cancer was so virulent that he and his family may never have had much more time with Alex.

“But even if it was another day, or two days,” said Mr. Koehne. “And Lisa could have said goodbye to her son.”

Above: Jim and Lisa Koehne remember their son Alex with a foundation, Alex’s Promise, which raises money for brain cancer research. Last year they were able to donate $10,000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.



Southampton Hospital Forms Alliance with Stony Brook

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Southampton Hospital forged an alliance on Friday that will bring to the small South Fork hospital many of the services of one of the most respected medical facilities between here and New York City. The agreement with Stony Brook University Hospital completes a series of recommendations from the state-mandated Beger  Report which, among other things, called for greater relationships between medical facilities to provide more comprehensive and cost-effective heath care for the residents of Long Island. In June, Southampton Hospital also fulfilled another one of the report’s recommendations, forming an alliance with the other two East End hospitals, Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, creating the East End Health Alliance, an organization that gives the three institutions greater buying and negotiating power. That arrangement also allowed each of the three to develop specialties that would complement the specialties in the other hospitals. Southampton is the third of the local hospitals to form a relationship with Stony Brook.

This newest alliance with Stony Brook will bring yet more strength when it comes time to negotiate contracts such as insurance reimbursement, and provide greater scales of economy in purchasing supplies.

“During a hospital stay, a patient needs to be guaranteed good health care,” said Shirley Strum Kenny, president of Stony Brook University, during Friday morning’s signing ceremony at the Parrish Memorial Hall at Southampton Hospital. “To do that we have to ensure the health of our hospitals.”

But aside from the economic factors, officials say the alliance will bring easier access to a deeper well of health care options to residents of the East End.

“During the summer cocktail parties here, I always hear people say you have to travel to New York City to get good health care,” said Southampton Hospital President and CEO Robert S. Chaloner. “That’s not true. Our mission is to convince all our communities that they don’t have to travel; that good health care exists here.”

The alliance, said Chaloner, will provide several opportunities for the local hospital and its patients, including access to academic and professional capabilities Southampton currently does not have, and expertise in areas such as heart disease and stroke.

The agreement provides for a one-call hotline for transfer patients, and in the emerging field of Hospitalist services, Southampton and Stony Brook will share ideas and management practices with the goal of improving patient care, according to a release provided by the hospital. The two hospitals will participate in joint continuing medical education (CME) activities and explore the development of an overarching academic affiliation for Southampton with Stony Brook University’s Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Nursing, Social Welfare and Health Technology and Management. In addition, Stony Brook will provide an integration of quality monitoring and reporting as well as electronic patient record systems that will allow for enhancement of patient services. Finally, Stony Brook will sponsor Southampton Hospital as an Associate member of the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC), providing access to a group purchasing program.

“Stony Brook will help us recruit doctors in a time when there is a physician shortage and it is difficult for them to survive here,” said Chaloner, “and will give us access to educational and training opportunities for our doctors.”

The alliance will also benefit Stony Brook, said Dr. Steven Strongwater, CEO of Stony Brook University Medical Center. His hospital has an expanding medical school class size and Southampton will provide an excellent opportunity for placing interns and students.

“Southampton Hospital has a great tradition in this community dating back to 1908 when it first opened, and we have great respect for the mission and traditions here,” said Dr. Strongwater. “We recognize the need to support that mission and find ways to get advanced services to those who need it—not to duplicate, but augment with training, education and recruitment. Southampton and Stony Brook are a perfect match for that.”

Stony Brook University Medical Center is the only academic medical center on Long Island. It comprises Stony Brook University School of Medicine and Stony Brook University Hospital, which is the only tertiary care hospital and Level 1 trauma center in Suffolk County. With 540 beds and 5,100 employees, it is the largest hospital in Suffolk County.            

“When the Berger Commission came in we were far ahead of what Berger wanted us to do,” said Senator Kenneth  P.  LaValle who sponsored the “Flexibility” legislation authorizing the East End alliance. “This alliance came together thanks to critical people with the right personalities and the right backgrounds to pull it together.  Building people, building strengths leads to one thing – better patient care.”


In photo above (l to r) Senator Kenneth P. La Valle, Shirley Strum Kenny, President Stony Brook University; Robert S. Chaloner, President and CEO Southampton Hospital; (back l to r) Martin L. Stone, MD., Southampton Hospital Board;   Steven L. Strongwater, M.D., CEO, Stony Brook University Medical Center; Reverend Peter M. Larsen, Southampton Hospital Board Chairman and Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, D.O., Commissioner, Health Services for Suffolk County



East End Digest – November 20

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75 Christmas Boxes & Counting

Thursday night’s “Wrap a Box of Kindness” event, sponsored by the Bridgehampton Parent Teacher Organization, brought many Bridgehampton families out to decorate and pack gifts into shoeboxes. These boxes will be delivered to needy children all over the world.

Operation Christmas Child is a project designed and operated by Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse. It began in 1993 and has grown each year into a worldwide endeavor. All the boxes collected from around the United States are brought to over 130 countries and hand-delivered into the arms of a child – who may have never received a gift before.

Sag Harbor ARB: Vets Get Fence

Ralph Ficorelli, commander of the Sag Harbor VFW Chelberg & Battle Post 388, approached the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board on Thursday, November 13 to request a fence at the VFW in order to ensure the building’s parking lot is reserved for members of the post, rather than the general population, which has been parking there.

Ficorelli, accompanied by a number Sag Harbor veterans, requested a four-foot high, 261-foot long chain link fence, covered in green vinyl for the south and west sides of the VFW.

“The main reason we are doing this is because it is being used as a public parking lot and members down there, we have trouble finding places to park our cars,” explained Ficorelli.

The board had no quandary with the fence, but was concerned about residents on Rysam Street having to look at a green, vinyl chain link fence – which would generally not be approved in a residential neighborhood in the historic district of Sag Harbor.

Ficorelli argued that the green coating would help blend in the fence to the surrounding area and that the VFW intended to plant shrubbery around the fence to help shield it.

The board agreed to approve the fence with the caveat that the fence be shielded with shrubbery and the entry gate on Rysam be made partially of wood in keeping with the residential character of the neighborhood.

In other ARB news, Howard Kanovitz was approved to replace a historic column and repaint the historic residence at 27 Suffolk Street. Kanovitz also has sought to replace the windows, although the board has asked he look into restoration. Sean Murphy was approved to replace French doors at 27 Garden Street, Harbor Heights Gas Station was approved for new signs at their Hampton Street business, Anastasia Cole was approved for a picket fence at 3 Bay Street, Michael Butler was approved for building alterations at 37 Eastville Avenue and Blair and Cheryl Effron were granted permission for the demolition of an existing house at 34 Long Point Road and for a new two-story residence at the same site.

Suffolk Community College: Thanksgiving For The Needy

Faculty and students at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center will be partnering with the Dominican Sisters Family Health Service located in Hampton Bays to prepare and individually package more than 150 dinners that will assist in feeding those in need for Thanksgiving.

Under the direction of chef/instructor Jerry Dececco, preparation for this event will take place at the Culinary Arts Center located at 20 East Main Street in Riverhead on Tuesday, November 25 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu will consist of roast turkey with giblet gravy, seasoned cranberry bread stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, string beans Almondine, dinner rolls, apple pie and pumpkin pie.

New York State Assembly: Update On Fiscal Crisis

In accordance with a new law enacted last year to help increase fiscal accountability and transparency in state government, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., a member of the ways and means committee, joined Assembly minority leader James Tedisco and the Assembly Minority Conference last week to formally submit their assessment of New York’s current fiscal condition. The report outlines estimates of the conference’s disbursements for public assistance, Medicaid and school aid, along with estimates for tax receipts and lottery receipts.

“Our state is facing tough economic times ahead that will require us to tighten our belts and exercise true fiscal discipline to ensure New York can weather this fiscal storm,” said Thiele. “Our conference’s report is comprehensive and forecasts a continued decline in state revenues while emphasizing the need for fiscally sound proposals to close the budget deficit without doing so on the backs of taxpayers.”

In its report, the Assembly Minority Ways and Means Committee estimated the public assistance rolls will closeout the current fiscal year with 501,096 cases, that total expenditures for public assistance in the state will be $2.158 billion and that the state share of those expenditures will be $828.8 million. The conference also estimated that public assistance caseload for the 2009-10 fiscal year will be 512,683, with total expenditures of $2.212 billion at a state share of $848.6 million. The 2009-10 estimates represent a 3.2 increase in caseload and a 2.3 percent increase in costs to the state.

According to Thiele, the conference has also estimated the Medicaid rolls will increase by 2.8 percent in the current fiscal year – resulting in a total enrollment of 3.6 million individuals. The ways and means committee expects the state share for the current fiscal year to be $17.7 billion. They also estimate that enrollment for the 2009-10 fiscal year will rise 4.8 percent, for a total of 3.8 million individuals with a state share of $19.4 billion and a local cap of $965 million.

Additionally, the committee forecast state school aid to increase by en estimated $1.9 billion for the 2009-10 school year. The increase would bring total funding for annual state school aid to $23 billion. The estimate is based upon May data provided by the state education department.

The state division of the budget’s mid-year update projects that New York State is facing a $1.5 billion budget gap this year and a $12.5 billion budget gap next year. The minority conference fiscal analysis suggests the gap is likely to be $1.2 billion this year and $11.6 billion next year.

Nature Conservancy: Clam Population Recovering

The Nature Conservancy and Suffolk County today announced study results that show early signs of a recovery for the bay’s hard clam population.

Four years ago, The Nature Conservancy, backed by a wide range of public and private supporters, took a chance – embarking on a shellfish restoration to “make the Great South bay Great Again” by restoring its hard clam population.

Hard clams play a vital role in the bay, helping maintain water quality by filtering debris and plankton out of the water as they feed. At the start of this effort the Bay’s clam population was so low that in much of the bay they were no longer reproducing successfully.  To help boost natural reproduction, the Conservancy-led partnership added over three million adult clams to the Bay in the last four years, creating a network of over 50 sites, or sanctuaries, where adult clams could grow and reproduce without disturbance.

Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island said, “Our summer survey of the bay bottom revealed over 250 million juvenile clams which we believe to be offspring of the adult clams that we have been stocking in the Bay. That represents a 4,000 percent increase in the clam population of the central part of the bay since 2006. This is a very positive sign that we are on track towards meeting our restoration objectives. However recurring episodes of brown tide and natural predators are a continued threat. We must continue working with our partners to do what we can to ensure the continued success of this exciting restoration project.” 

Hard clams once were so abundant that Great South Bay supplied over 50 percent of the entire nation’s hard clams. Today the reported commercial harvest is down by more than 99 percent. Not only does the decline of shellfish have economic impacts, but water quality is also affected.  Chronic algal blooms (such as brown tide), which negatively impact marine life in the Great South Bay, have been linked to declining clam populations. Clams filter water and help keep the algae in control.

Inspired by its initial success, The Nature Conservancy will continue to work with partners on the Bluepoints Bottomlands Council on additional restoration activities, with the goal of eventually stepping back as nature takes over and the clams become self-sustaining.

Southampton Hospital: Recruits Genetic Counselor

Southampton Hospital is proud to announce the recruitment of the first Genetic Counselor to the East End of Long Island. Emily Smith, MS has joined Southampton Hospital this month to develop cancer counseling through genetic testing for ovarian and breast cancer (BRCA 1 & BRCA 2). She will serve as a resource for local physicians to explain the science of genetics, walk people through the decision of having a test and make recommendations on a case-by-case basis.

In the process of genetic counseling, family history and medical records are evaluated. At the patients request genetic tests are ordered and the results are assessed.  Counseling and psychological support are provided to enable the patient to reach a decision to learn more. 

Genetic counseling gives people an opportunity to sit down with a trained health professional to discuss their risk for a genetic disease and to help people learn more about the causes of genetic conditions and how they may be affected.

Previously, patients had to travel to Stony Brook Medical Center or Good Samaritan Hospital for genetic testing.

“I am anxious to provide this service to this great community, a service that many other parts of the country have had for more than 10 years,” said Smith.  She adds that the test results generally take approximately three-to-four weeks with a 99 percent level of accuracy.

“We plan to provide the state-of-the-art care that everyone deserves,” said Smith. 

Ms. Smith, a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, is a graduate of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and has varied clinical experience in the Genetic Counseling field.  According to Frederic Weinbaum, MD, Chief Medical Officer, “Offering this new service to the community is indicative of Southampton Hospital’s direction.  We are striving to provide the most advanced medical care available and will continue in this direction with the communities support.”

Smith was hired to be working specifically within the Breast Health Center providing genetic counseling for ovarian and breast cancer but she hopes that the department will expand into other aspects of genetic counseling.  She also plans to hold an informational seminar on genetic counseling during the upcoming Health Insights lecture series this winter.

Additional information is available on the Hospital website at www.southamptonhospital.org or contact Emily Smith to schedule an appointment at 377-3477.





East End Digest – November 20

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Pierson Takes The Challenge

(Left to right) Pierson academic advisor Frank Atkinson-Barnes, with students Andrew Mitchell, Amanda Holder, “The Challenge” host Scott Feldman, students Zachary Fischman, Celia Gianis and Devan Stachecki during a break while filming Cablevision’s “The Challenge,” which will air at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 16 on News 12.

All-star student scholars from Pierson High School will challenge Cold Spring Harbor High School in the first round of the 12th season of Cablevision’s “The Challenge,” an academic quiz show designed to test students’ knowledge in a Jeopardy-style format. Hosted by News 12 Long Island anchor Scott Feldman, the show can be viewed on Sunday November 12 or anytime via video on demand (VOD) through News 12 Interactive, located on iO TV channel 612.

In its 12th season, “The Challenge” includes students from the Bronx and Brooklyn, Long Island, the Westchester/Hudson Valley region, New Jersey and Connecticut. More than 900 students representing 184 tri-state area high schools are participating this season.

As this season of “The Challenge” progresses, schools will vie each week to continue on in the competition, which ultimately results in the best teams from each region facing off against each other next spring. Regional champions will then compete for the ultimate title, Tri-State Challenge Champion. The winning team in each region will receive $2,500 and go on to compete for $10,000 in the Tri-State Championship. Each student participating in the championship match will receive $500.

Southampton Town: Completing An LWRP

Southampton supervisor Linda Kabot announced today that the Town of Southampton has been named the recipient of a $100,000 New York State grant to finance a number of plans to stimulate community projects relating to economic, environmental, and recreational improvements.

As part of that process, town staff will prepare a Harbor Management Plan and Intermunicipal Waterbody Management Plan, while consultants integrate them into a full Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).

“Whether it has been fishermen seeking abundance, beachgoers looking for an unspoiled ribbon of paradise, or someone looking to build a dream house, the waterfront has been the center of our economic and cultural life,” said Kabot. New York’s waterfronts extend more than 5,000 miles, including the Town of Southampton’s 320 miles of bay and ocean coastline.

According to the office of New York State Governor David Paterson, the grant will be part of a $23.3 million funding package from the State Environmental Protection Fund’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. In total, it will include funding for 88 undertakings across New York State, and cover a variety of planning, design, and construction projects. The grants are awarded on a 50-50 matching basis, and administered by the Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources.

To date, 76 local governments in New York have completed Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs designed to protect and enhance these valuable resources, added Governor Paterson. Working with the state, they will “plan and develop projects that provide public waterfront access, protect and develop coastal resources, and improve quality of life,” he concluded.

Bridgehampton: Wrap a Box of Kindness

Today, Thursday, November 13, the Bridgehampton Parent Teacher Organization will hold its first annual “Wrap a Box of Kindness” event. This event is in conjunction with Operation Christmas Child’s campaign where shoeboxes are filled with items for children.  Items range from pencils, pads, small toys and novelty items to washcloths and toothbrushes. Children and adults are encouraged to come together to donate items, money and time. Participants are also urged to bring a shoebox already decorated and stuffed to the Bridgehampton School for drop off if they are unable to attend. The PTO is asking that liquids not be included in the boxes.

As a part of the event, this year an estimated eight million shoeboxes will be hand-delivered to children in over 100 countries. The kids-helping-kids project has collected more than 61 million shoebox gifts and hand-delivered them to needy children in 130 countries since 1993. Every United States President since Ronald Reagan has packed an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift.

Community and schools members alike are invited to the school for the event at 6:30 p.m. in the gymnasium.

Peconic Land Trust: Bridge Gardens Donated

John v.H. Halsey, President of the Peconic Land Trust, announced the donation of Bridge Gardens, a five-acre garden on Mitchell’s Lane in Bridgehampton, by founders Jim Kilpatric and Harry Neyens. Kilpatric and Neyens founded Bridge Gardens over 20 years ago, and the donation represents a generous gift by them to the Trust as well as to residents and visitors of the East End.

“We believe the stewardship of the Peconic Land Trust will significantly guide Bridge Gardens into the future,” Kilpatric said.

“Gardens are living creations and must undergo change over time; to survive, they must change,” Neyens added.

In accepting the donation Halsey said, “Bridge Gardens is truly a wonderful sanctuary here on the East End, and we are very honored that Jim and Harry have put their trust in us to steward this property. We intend to keep Jim and Harry engaged with us as the garden evolves and we work to expand public access to this hidden treasure. We expect to introduce more educational programming related to gardening and conservation in general. Bridge Gardens is a refuge for people to meet and experience the handiwork that Jim and Harry have created over the years.”

The garden, which has been open to the public from Memorial Day weekend through September, will reopen again in the spring under the auspices of the trust. The trust has appointed Rick Bogusch, master gardener and landscape architect, as Garden Manager.  He will be responsible for managing and maintaining the garden and residence/education center. Prior to joining the trust, Bogusch held landscape design and gardening positions with Rockland Farm in Canaan, The Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, and Cornell University where he also received his Masters in Landscape Architecture. 

Bogusch will work with members of the trust staff to coordinate educational programs and tours at the Gardens, as well as special events and related fundraising activities. An advisory committee has also been established – including members of the trust board, staff, garden experts and local residents – to work with Bogusch on future evolution of the garden.

Bridge Gardens was established in 1988 by Neyens and Kilpatric, who designed and installed the gardens over the ensuing 10 years. In 1997, Bridge Gardens Trust was created as a charitable corporation to maintain and preserve the gardens.

Bridge Gardens will be open to the public from Memorial Day weekend through September. Days, hours and other information regarding visiting the Gardens will be announced in early spring, including membership options.

Southampton Hospital: Diabetes Awareness

Southampton, Hospital will present a free panel discussion “Diabetes: Awareness and Treatment” with a seven person panel of experts in the field that including George Keckeisen, MD, Medical Director of the hospital’s wound care center, Alan Goldenberg, MD, endocrinologist; Joshua Feiner, MD, endocrinologist, Judy O’Connell, Nurse Practioner (NP), certified diabetes educator, Pat Vonatski, registered dietician and certified diabetes educator and Peggy Kraus, MA registered clinical exercise physiologist.

Diabetes affects over 24 million children and adults in the United States, contributes to the deaths of over 220,000 Americans each year and costs our nation more than $174 billion annually. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy for life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although genetics and environmental factors such as diet, obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. 

This comprehensive program is designed for people who already have diabetes, those whose family history puts them at risk and those who have a diabetic spouse, partner, relative or friend. It is free and open to the public and will take place on Thursday, November 20 at 5 p.m. in Parrish Memorial Hall, corner of Lewis Street and Herrick Road. In addition, Southampton Hospital offers expert counseling services with a board certified diabetes nurse educator and diabetes support group that meets every month.

The program will provide an in-depth view of diabetes prevention, management and treatment in an informative, interactive panel discussion. Dr. Keckeisen will report on the huge success the hospital’s Center for Advanced Wound Healing, the only location on the East End offering the latest innovations for healing chronic wounds that frequently afflicts diabetics; much of this success is accomplished by using the Center’s state-of-the-art hyperbaric chambers which infuse chronic wounds with oxygen for faster, better results.  Patients, who have suffered from wounds for months, even years, are routinely restored to health in less time ever thought possible. Dr. Goldenberg, who is board certified in endocrinology and diabetes, along with his new partner, Dr. Joshua Feiner, also an endocrinologist, will review and evaluate the latest advances in medications to control diabetes.  Ms. O’Connell, creator and director of the hospital’s program, “Diabetes: Basics and Beyond” will discuss steps to avoid prevent diabetes as well as comprehensive treatment plans for those with diabetes.  Ms. Vonatski will outline nutritional plans for maximum health, both as a prevention and treatment. Ms. Kraus will make recommendations for glucose monitoring and exercise for diabetics. The panel will conclude with a question-and-answer session, there will be a raffle and giveaways for those attending.

This free program is very popular and space fill up quickly. Call 726-8700, extension 8 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to register or email dcraven@southamptonhospital.org. 

East End Digest – October 30

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Southampton Hospital Honors Hughes

Evelyn Hughes, a lead housekeeper in the Environmental Services Department has been chosen as the hospital’s Employee of the Quarter for the third quarter of 2008. Hughes’ selection was celebrated at a luncheon in her honor, where Human Resources Vice President, Paul Davin, presented her with a trophy recognizing her achievement. A resident of Riverhead, Hughes has been an employee of the hospital for nearly 38 years.

Suffolk County: Cavett Property Purchase

The Suffolk Legislature last week approved the county’s $6 million share in the $18 million purchase of 76.8 acres of oceanfront land in Montauk owned by television personality Dick Cavett. The state and the Town of East Hampton will complete the purchase.

Although the final tally of the Suffolk Legislature was robust —12 to 6 — there was a close vote on having the vote.

William Lindsay of Holbrook, presiding officer of the legislature, sought to table a vote on the resolution citing the Wall Street financial crisis and what he said would be its impact on the interest rates that might be charged for money to finance the purchase.

His motion came two votes away from being passed.

The stand at a legislative meeting October 14 came against the backdrop of a critical study of Suffolk County’s open space program done by the Long Island Economic and Social Policy Institute at Dowling College in Oakdale financed by a group of real estate and pro-development groups. Lindsay and Alden attended the unveiling of the report at Dowling on October 10, four days before the legislative action on the Cavett property. The report was titled “Long Island Government Land Acquisition: Can Long Island Taxpayers and the Regional Economy Still Afford It?”

The report issued at Dowling College criticized the cost of open space acquisitions by Suffolk County. It concluded that “There has to be a serious discussion of whether we are buying too much land, with the economic impact on the regional economy factored into any decision made regarding purchasing more open space …. Inescapable is that the more land that’s preserved, the less that is available for affordable housing and the less land that is available to contribute to the tax burden of government.  Furthermore, the more open space that is purchased removes from the tax rolls a vital stream of government revenue that will ultimately have to be subsidized by the remaining taxpayers.”

The $20,000 cost of the report was paid for by a recently formed coalition called Long Island Real Estate Organizations.

“This acquisition will not increase county indebtedness by one penny since it [the funding] comes from the self-contained quarter-cent sales tax [for open space preservation] which was overwhelmingly approved by the electorate,” countered Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. “Defeating the measure would not have changed our financial picture in any way. As for the worthiness of the acquisition, the Cavett property was one of the first parcels to be included in my comprehensive inventory of environmentally sensitive lands.”                                              Reporting by karl grossman

Southampton Hospital: Blood Drive

Southampton Hospital is sponsoring a blood drive on Thursday, November 6, to help boost blood supplies on Long Island. Donations can be made from 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. in the teaching center, located on the hospital’s third floor. Anyone between the ages of 17 and 76, in good health and weighing at least 110 pounds is eligible to donate.

According to Hospital organizer Gerry Minerva, “More blood donors are always needed. Right now, only about four people out of 100 who are able to donate blood do so, but blood supplies need to be replenished constantly.”

She also stressed that it is absolutely safe to donate blood as many as six times per year.

As an incentive to attract donors, the hospital will provide a voucher for a free lunch in the hospital cafeteria as well as a ‘pint for a pint’ certificate to the Southampton Publick House to all successful donors.

Walk-ins are welcome. It only takes approximately 10 to 12 minutes to donate, but participants should allow one hour to complete the sign-in and donation process. An ID with a signature and a social security number will be requested of each donor.

For those who would prefer to make an appointment, please contact Gerry Minerva at 726-8336.

East Hampton: Moran House Gifted

Guild Hall of East Hampton, Inc. has donated the Moran House property to The Thomas Moran Trust. Guild Hall presented the Deed of Gift to the Moran House which is appraised at $4 million to the trust and also delivered to the trust the full $500,000 Community Preservation Fund payment for the historic preservation easement purchased by the town and village of East Hampton and restricted for use toward the restoration of the property.

 “This is a successful and happy event and represents a win, win, win for the community, the Thomas Moran Trust, and Guild Hall,” said Mickey Straus, Chairman, Guild Hall Board of Trustees.

The Moran House is the East Hampton historical residence and art studio of the 19th century world-renowned landscape artist, Thomas Moran. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Thomas Moran spent each summer from 1884 until 1926 in this home and did much of his painting in its spacious two-story studio. Architecturally, the house is a significant example of a Queen Anne artist’s studio, which is rare design.

“Obtaining ownership and the generous Community Preservation Funds are the first steps among many the Thomas Moran Trust  will be taking to restore  the Moran House and assure its place as a significant part of the nation’s and the east end’s cultural heritage.” said Peter Wolf, Chairman of the Thomas Moran Trust. “Many dedicated individuals and organizations both inside and outside of local government have worked tirelessly for several years to bring this to fruition.”

“This gift represents the joint efforts of Guild Hall and the Moran House Trust to allow the preservation and restoration of this important National Historic Landmark” said Bill McGintee, East Hampton Town Supervisor.”

In 1990, Elizabeth and David  Lamb gave The Moran House to Guild Hall, reserving a life estate, which expired upon Mrs. Lamb’s death in 2004. In the two years following, Guild Hall’s trustees formed the Moran House Committee. Moving forward, in collaboration with the village and town of East Hampton, Guild Hall, and many other civic organizations and individuals, the Thomas Moran Trust will initiate the studies, the capital campaign, and the subsequent work necessary, in order to revive this property of significant national and local importance, which, overlooking Town Pond, is the gateway to the historic district of East Hampton.

League of Women Voters: Riverhead Resorts Forum

To enable the public to learn more about Riverhead Resorts, the 755-acre multi-resort and hotel/convention facility planned for the former Grumman site in Calverton, the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons is hosting “A Public Forum on the Riverhead Resorts Plan in Calverton” on Monday, November 10 at 7 p.m.

All points of view will be presented by the panel which includes: Phil Cardinale, Supervisor of the Town of Riverhead; Robert DeLuca, President of the Group for the East End; Patricia Manzi, Pine Barrens site director for The Nature Conservancy; Mitch Pally, attorney representing Riverhead Resorts; and Brenda Prusinowski, Deputy Commissioner of Planning for the Town of Brookhaven.

The panelists will make opening and closing statements and answer questions from the audience. Maps will be available, showing the eight planned theme parks that feature a fitness/aquatics facility, a wilderness resort, equine area, spa facility, indoor ski mountain, heritage/entertainment area, water adventure resort, and a conference center, all surrounding a 90-acre lake. Details have been posted by the planners at www.riverheadresorts.com.

The forum takes place at the Southampton Town Senior Center in Hampton Bays, 25 Ponquogue Avenue, across from the Hampton Bays Post Office.

For further information, call the League’s Natural Resources committee at 283-2638. To join the League, call 324-8662.

Southampton Town: Sag Student Honored

At the beginning of each day since 1988, pupils at Sag Harbor Elementary School have gathered in the gymnasium for the “Morning Sing.” A session begins with the Pledge of Allegiance, a rousing hymn of salute to the American Flag, and continues with a number of other songs. However, today brought a celebration of citizenship and community, as well as a Southampton Town Councilman.

Speaking before children and teachers from grades Kindergarten through fifth, Councilman Dan Russo sang the praises of Noyac’s Gabriel Martaron for his “dedicated civic involvement” that led to the installation of additional signs on Whitney Road and Crescent Street.

“The Town Council decides the rules for Southampton, but your parents and grandparents get to decide on us,” Russo began. “You may not be old enough to vote, but there are a lot of other ways to get involved.”

 Martaron, who is a third grader in Mrs. Deyermond’s class, circulated a petition to the area’s residents with the help of his neighbors. The signatures were then presented to the councilman. At Russo’s urging, on September 17, the Town’s Highway Department placed “Children at Play” and “Dead End Signs” along the requested roads.

 “Gabriel wanted something changed, he got involved, and made a difference in his community,” said Russo.

Local Doctors Rally To Aid Zambian Girl

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Nine year-old Merris has the kind of smile that lights up a room, a smile that gives no indication that she has been living with a life-altering injury in her rural village on the distant outskirts of Kitwe, Zambia.

Next week, a group of doctors with the support of a local ministry group will attempt to perform surgery on her disfigured arm, effectively saving her hand, and changing Merris’s life for the better.

Merris’s injury is a severely contracted hand — the result of a snakebite — that without surgery would end with the loss of her left hand. A local ministry group had hoped to bring Merris to the United States on Tuesday, October 14, with the goal of having pre-surgical testing completed by Wednesday, and the surgery, performed by Dr. James Brady at Southampton Hospital, on Thursday. Unfortunately, a delay in the Zambia passport office early this week will likely push the surgery back.

Regardless of the delay, the mission to save Merris’s arm will move forward next week, and is not the first, and certainly not the last, time a band of local doctors and the RaphaEl Ministries will attempt to better the lives of others — the heart of their operation.

RaphaEl Ministries is overseen by the Community Bible Church in Noyac and was founded by Dr. Scott Silverberg, the chief of anesthesia at Southampton Hospital. Silverberg moved to the East End 12 years ago, finding a home with the Community Bible Church after being drawn to the congregation not just by their dedication to God, but also their coffee house, where Silverberg, a musician, could be found playing his drums.

“But really what we are about is we just want to glorify God in everything we do,” he said.

In May, RaphaEl Ministries took its inaugural medical mission to Kitwe, Zambia with 17 local doctors and nurses making the trip on their own vacation time to provide medical care and supplies to an area where even the most basic supplies can be scarce. Southampton Hospital donated numerous supplies, which the mission brought over — obstetric equipment including a sonogram machine and incubator that the hospital was no longer in need of after upgrading their facilities.

What brought RaphaEl Ministries to Kitwe Hospital, and ultimately to Merris, was Zambian reverend Lubuto Nsofu, who Dr. Silverberg met at the Church of the Sound while he was in his residency in Stony Brook. Reverend Nsofu was training at Christ for The Nations College, which used to be at Stony Brook, when the two connected, forging a bond that continues to this day — a bond that made Dr. Silverberg decide Zambia should be the site of RaphaEl Ministries’ first medical ministry.

“I had moved out here and had him come to some of our churches,” recalled Dr. Silverberg. “That was when we connected. And I said to my friend, James Brady, let’s go on a medical mission together.”

For Dr. Silverberg, using his training in mission work is a part of a life long desire – a desire only temporarily put on hold while he paid off his school debts.

“Being a Christian, the desire has always been in my heart,” he said. “I think God put it in me, to help those less fortunate. These things, God arranges them, and it developed over time where I was finally able to go.”

During the trip Dr. Silverberg, along with Dr. Brady, Southampton Hospital attending obstetrician Florence Rolston, and a number of others provided both free surgeries and medical care at Kitwe Hospital, as well as service to clinics in the African bush.

The surgical team completed approximately 40 procedures and the medical team cared for between 300 and 500 patients over the course of three days, in what Dr. Silverberg described as a morning to night schedule. Conditions in Zambia were far from what one would expect to find in a hospital stateside, with exposed wiring in some operating rooms, and no screens lending to surgical areas compromised by flies and mosquitoes.

And it was at Kitwe that Dr. Silverberg met Merris.

Immediately, he said, they knew caring for Merris in Zambia was not possible due to the extent of her injury. It was Dr. Brady who Dr. Silverberg said made the decision that Merris’s care could not happen in Kitwe. 

“She needs extensive surgery,” said Dr. Silverberg, adding almost immediately the group began to strategize on how, and when, they could bring Merris to the United States for her operation.

In addition to extensive surgery, Merris will need a full week of recovery at Southampton Hospital, followed by two months of rehabilitation on the East End.

“So we said to ourselves, there is a way, and we started developing our plan, discussing it with the hospital, which has been very supportive of our ministry,” said Dr. Silverberg.

Merris, once issues have been settled with the Zambian passport agency, will travel to the United States with her mother, as well as a Zambian nurse who speaks English and will be given western medical training at Southampton Hospital during their stay.

RaphaEl Ministries has already expended some $7,000 just flying Merris, her mother and the nurse to the United States, and will also be responsible for helping provide clothing, supplies and transportation for the family during their stay.

All the doctors involved in the case have agreed to donate their time, said Dr. Silverberg, adding the hospital itself has been a great help.

In order to support RaphaEl Ministries work — Merris’s surgery, as well as the planned surgery of a 20-year old man from Zambia who suffered severe burns to his head, neck and upper body in February, and a second medical mission to Kitwe Hospital in April — the organization will begin fundraising in the community shortly, according to Paula Krzyzewski, a member of the Community Bible Church and RaphaEl Ministries.

Before the last venture to Africa, Dr. Rolston and another nurse affiliated with St. Johns Episcopal Church in Southampton, along with Cindy Willis spearheaded a fundraising movement for the mission.

“I can do medicine, I can’t do fundraising,” acknowledged Dr. Silverberg.

Overall $50,000 was raised, enough to cover team expenses on the last mission and send over a container of donated equipment from the hospital, as well as baby blankets, children’s books and clothing to Kitwe, which will be distributed by Victory Ministries and Victory Bible Church. According to Krzyzewski, the container should be arriving in the next two weeks.

 “It’s completely outside my realm to sit around this table of doctors and nurses,” said Krzyzewski. “What they are doing is so inspiring and so selfless.”