By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY May 9, 2003 Sullivan County Public Health Nursing Service is located at 50 Community Lane in Liberty.
Founded in 1941, today it has developed into a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week partial-service health department.
As defined by the NYS Department of Health (DOH), that designation is allocated to counties with full-time populations of less than 250,000.
In Sullivan County, Public Health Nursing does everything except environmental inspections and/or licensing. Those health-related functions are carried out by folks in the NYS DOH district office in Monticello.
We take care of people from cradle to grave, and even during pregnancy to teach the moms to make sure they are at the lowest possible risk of complications, said Carol Ryan, director of the local public health nursing service.
Sullivan County Public Health Nursing is the sole certified Home Health Agency in the county. The program provides home visits by nurses, home health aides, physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and social workers.
In 2002, public health nurses logged over 21,000 home visits throughout the county.
The Long Term Health Care Program maintains a nursing home-level of care to patients in their homes as long as possible at a cost of at least 75 percent less than at an institutional nursing home, said Ryan. It provides home visits by nurses, home health aides, personal care aides and rehabilitation services.
Affectionately known as the Nursing Home Without Walls, the program is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
At Sullivan County Public Health Nursing, the 100-bed unit is nearing capacity. With 90 beds already filled, they are reviewing six referrals which, if qualified, will make the local facility 96 percent full.
The Women, Infants & Children (WIC) Program provides nutritional assessment and education to eligible child-bearing and postpartum women, infants and children in a comprehensive health program with emphasis on preventive care. Peer counselors are utilized to provide ongoing support and guidance for mothers who breastfeed their babies.
The Diagnostic & Treatment Center offers a variety of services: the tuberculosis control program (TBCP), the sexually transmitted disease (STD) program, the immunization program, HIV testing and counseling, epidemiology/communicable diseases, lead screening and health education.
The Early Care Program is a mandated program which provides evaluation, testing and services for developmental delays: special education, speech, occupational and physical therapy, and case management for eligible children up to the age of five.
The Physically Handicapped Childrens Program (PHCP) identifies children under the age of 21 with physically handicapping conditions and/or correctable physical defects. Children receive quality medical care without causing undue financial hardship to the family.
One of our biggest responsibilities is communicable disease surveillance, said Ryan. We see the whole county as our patient.
At present, Public Health Nursing is watching out for measles (three cases were recently reported in Brooklyn, and as thousands of Brooklyn residents routinely summer in the region, local health officials are concerned) and SARS (there are no known cases in the county).
And in the wake of September 11, 2001, the local public health agency has an emergency plan to deal with bio-terrorism, in addition to chemical and/or nuclear attacks.
The Ones in Charge
Ryan has been a registered nurse since 1973. She received her first nursing degree from Orange County Community College, a bachelors degree from SUNY New Paltz and a masters in public health from Johns Hopkins University.
My whole life growing up, I was a caregiver-type of person, she said. When I was a kid and someone was sick, Id bring them trays of food and used to bring injured birds into the house.
Ryan said nursing is a great profession.
Its very altruistic. . . . Its a career where you take care of others as opposed to corporate America.
Nursing is a skill and an art that you combine with love and caring, she said. Its a healing art from the heart that paves the way to healing.
Shelley Eggleton serves as Sullivan County Public Health Nursings director of patient services.
She studied nursing at Orange County Community College and SUNY Binghamton and is working on an online masters degree in health services administration at St. Josephs College.
At 14, I was a candy striper at Roscoe Nursing Home, and Ive never done anything else, she said. I love helping people and providing a public service. . . . Theres a certain feeling about helping people with what they need in the community, knowing that what you do makes a difference to the people you serve.
Eggleton said Sullivan County Public Health Nursing has a staff of about 28, 18-20 of which are on the road taking care of local residents in need of health care services.
Many of the registered nurses (RNs) have advanced medical training as a public health nurse (PHN) and/or supervisory public health nurse (SPHN).
The nursing we practice is holistic, added Eggleton. We look at the whole family.
Dr. Allan R. Fried is a country doctor whose family has been around the county up in Shandalee for over 100 years.
In addition to serving on the Sullivan County Public Health Nursing health services advisory board, Dr. Fried is clinical director of the handicapped childrens program.
I keep the nurses happy, he said.
Members of the health services advisory board include Sandy Cuellar-Oxford, Dr. Allan R. Fried, Marilyn Gitlin, Dr. Herman Goldfarb, Dr. Alan Greenbaum, Florence Neukrug, Glenn Pontier, Vera Sclawy and Gladys Walker.
The Ones on the Road
The other day, Public Health Nurse Carol Huebsch paid a home visit to 87-year-old Eleanor Greenberg of Liberty to help her with a few ailments and offer a comforting hug.
At the end of the visit, she even took out the trash.
Huebsch has been a nurse for more than 30 years. Before coming to public health nursing, she worked as a nurse at Daytop and Sullivan Correctional Facility the bad boy prison.
When I was very young, I had my tonsils out, and I wanted to be just like the nurse who took care of me in the hospital, she recalled. I never wavered from wanting to be a nurse.
Huebsch got her LPN certification at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Tarrytown, Pa. and her RN license as a member of the first graduating nursing class of 1987 at Sullivan County Community College. She completed advanced training through Empire State College.
I love older people who are independent and who really give the world a go-around, she said of her charge. Eleanor is a corker. . . . Shes up and about, and she does what shes supposed to do.
Greenberg has lived in Liberty for 45 years. Before he passed away, her husband Alvin used to run a stationery store on School Street, selling and repairing typewriters and adding machines.
Shes a doll, but Id like to see more of her, said Greenberg of her devoted public health nurse. I get very good care.
For more information about Sullivan County Public Health Nursing, call 292-0100, ext. 1.
The Nurses of Sullivan County
Public Health Nursing
Patricia Acquaire (RN), Cheryl Barnard (PHN), Maureen Brandi (RN), Lynne Carlin (SPHN), Susan Carmichael (RN), Danielle Cartuccio (RN), Joyce Davis (PHN), Shelley Eggleton (Director of Patient Services), Beverly Franskevicz (PHN), Beth Gilmore (Quality Improvement Program Coordinator), Bruce Grund (RN), Rebecca Hadden (RN), Kyle Henry (PHN), Carol Huebsch (PHN), Peggy Johnson (RN), Lisa Kennedy (PHN), Nancy King (RN), Linda Lapichak (RN), Linda McCabe (SPHN), Susan Madnick (RN), Tom Maloney (PHN), David Miner (RN), Anne Mikulski (RN), Brigit OConnell-Blatt (Long Term Program Coordinator), Donna Parsons (RN), Cathy Perno (SPHN), Sylvia Peters (PHN), Wendy Pintler (RN), Carol Ryan (Director of Public Health), Jessica Schwartz (RN), Joan Spencer (RN), Joan Symanski (PHN), Donna Tyler (RN), Amy Weiss-Friedman (SPHN), Lynne Wilcox (RN), Martha Wilcox (RN), Laura Yacino (RN) and Nancy Young (PHN).
* RN (Registered Nurse); PHN (Public Health Nurse); SPHN (Supervisory Public Health Nurse).