Indy speaks with Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Director of Communications and Marketing, Barbara-Jo Howard

Health Care Heroes Fighting The Good Fight




If you aren’t a medical professional, it’s hard to imagine what goes on behind hospital walls. What does the inside of a hospital look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Director of Communications and Marketing, Barbara-Jo Howard, took some time out of her busy schedule to give us a peek behind the curtain, as well as letting the public know ways to help.

What is the atmosphere like at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital right now?

We have a highly-skilled team of professionals who are working tirelessly to combat COVID-19. Morale is very good. As more than one nurse has stated, “this is what we signed up to do.” The entire staff is very quick to adapt to ever-evolving guidelines as they occur.

The forward triage to Stony Brook Southampton’s emergency department. Independent/Courtesy Stony Brook Southampton Hospital

How is the staff coping?

They are brave, strong, committed, and compassionate. They are deeply touched by the many notes and pictures that are emailed and posted to social media.

Are you seeing the same shortage of medical supplies that the rest of this country is seeing?

Yes, but we are managing.

Though we are standing safely apart, we continue to work seamlessly together. In anticipation of our patients’ needs we are building solutions and staying ahead of a rapidly-evolving public health crisis. In just a few short weeks, we have incredibly expanded bed capacity 100 percent and increased intensive care unit beds threefold. We have successfully transformed our hospital from 94 beds to 184. This is an astonishing undertaking that was being nimbly executed through collaboration, innovation, and stealth-like determination. We built in a matter of days what it would normally take months, if not years to achieve.

The Cardiac Care Unit and North 2 South End have been converted into ICUs and post-anesthesia care unit stands ready to accept patients. We have completed the transformation of the Cardiac Rehab Center into a tele-unit for non-COVID/person under investigation patients. These conversions are happening only as a result of the collective hard work and tireless dedication of an amazing staff. Our clinical staff are brave, skilled, and compassionate. We cannot thank them enough for their dedication.

Are you receiving donations of masks to your hospital from local vendors or otherwise?

We have received many much-welcomed donations of various personal protective equipment items, including N95 masks. We are incredibly fortunate to be serving such a caring and engaged community that is leaving no stone unturned in their steadfast commitment to help reinforce our supplies and equipment, including ventilators, PPE, and funding. We are grateful for the outpouring of support.

Where can philanthropists donate funds?

The Health Care Heroes Fund has been established to help underwrite the extraordinary expenses associated with our hospital’s efforts to care for our community during this crisis. We very much appreciate every donation.

The public has been advised to stay home and wash their hands. Is there any advice you would give?

The best protection for you, your family, and all the people you care about is to stay home. If you absolutely must go out, wear a mask and wash your hands often. If you are interested in more information, visit www.southampton.stonybrookmedicine.edu and follow us on Facebook (@stonybrooksouthamptonhospital) and Instagram (@stonybrookshh) where we answer many questions.

Every Friday at 7 PM, Southampton residents have been asked to go outside and clap, bang on cookware, and make noise, to thank health care workers and first responders. How does it make you feel?

It is an inspiring expression of genuine support. Last week, to help bring some cheer to our patients, we asked our staff and the community to have their children send us drawings. Their art has been curated into a virtual art exhibition we are sharing on the in-hospital network as well as on our social media, which can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=B46nFDG0jxo&t=10s.

To support health care heroes, visit www.southampton.stonybrookmedicine.edu/giving/healthcare_heroes.