Ambulance officials tell Health Department of concerns about Hamptons Rehab Center

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The chiefs of the Southampton Volunteer Ambulance and the Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance companies jointly wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Health in January, voicing concerns about the quality of care patients receive at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in the village.

The letter, according to a state official, highlights recurring problems the ambulance crews, which respond to more than 200 calls to the facility each year, have experienced and witnessed among patients they have been called to treat and transport to local hospitals.

Neither the ambulance chiefs—Violetta Zamorski, chief of the Southampton Volunteer Ambulance, and Keith Phillips, chief of Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance—nor the Department of Health would release a copy of the 10-page letter. But Ms. Zamorski said that among the concerns the chiefs voiced is the volume of ambulance calls that come from the center and the fact that so many of those calls must be handled by the local volunteer ambulances.

Beyond the concerns about ambulance calls, the emergency medical technicians and crews of the volunteer ambulance companies told the Department of Health of worrisome conditions at the center that they had witnessed themselves.

Among the problems ambulance crews have observed, Ms. Zamorski said, were long delays in seeking medical assistance for ailing patients, dehydration and bed sores. EMTs say that patients have sometimes been in severe respiratory distress or suffering chest pains for hours before the facility calls emergency crews to take them to the hospital, she said.

On other occasions, ambulance crews have responded to reports of a patient in cardiac arrest and found that the nursing home’s staff had not used or prepared an automated external defibrillator to restart the patient’s heart—a simple and potentially life-saving measure.

Southampton Volunteer Ambulance crews, based in North Sea, respond to dozens of calls at the Hamptons Center each year even though it is outside the company’s jurisdiction. Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance, whose jurisdiction includes the nursing home, responded to more than 170 calls at the nursing home last year. In 2007, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, the nursing home accounted for 22 percent of the village ambulance’s 563 calls, according to 2nd Assistant Chief Janet Sadowski.

The nursing home contracts with a private ambulance service to transport patients but does not have an ambulance on site and uses the 911 emergency system to call local volunteer ambulances when a private crew is unavailable.

Ms. Zamorski said the local ambulances never balk at responding and expect to have to answer occasional calls from the facility. But she said the sheer volume of calls is overwhelming the already struggling small volunteer corps and affecting service to the surrounding community.

“It has increased the village call volume so drastically,” Ms. Zamorski said. “In turn, that affects the entire community. They should have a paid service on hand there, 24-7.”

The ambulance chief said that concerns have been building among the volunteers who respond to the facility on a regular basis since the day it opened in 2006. She said that crews have had several internal meetings to discuss the conditions at the Hamptons Center, how to address them and whether the volunteer ambulances should lodge a formal complaint.

Ms. Zamorski said that the decision to file a formal complaint against the facility was made jointly by the two ambulance corps in hopes that it would be “an eye-opener for the community” about the care at what is now the only long-term nursing and rehabilitation center east of the Shinnecock Canal.

Mr. Phillips, chief of the village ambulance company, did not return numerous calls seeking comment.

Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing is a 280-bed facility on County Road 39 on the edge of Southampton Village. The center is owned and operated by North Sea Associates LLC.

Repeated attempts were made over several weeks to obtain comment from officials of the Hamptons Center, as well as its medical director, Dr. Charles Guida of Southampton. Numerous phone messages were never returned, and no comment was provided upon office visits seeking comment.

Staff writer Brendan O’Reilly contributed to this story.

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