Nassau University Medical Center officials are narrowing their search for a new CEO that the East Meadow hospital’s stakeholders hope will give NUMC stability after its gone through four leaders in two years.
Hotelier and attorney George Tsunis is resigning Jan. 17 from his position as chair of NUMC operator Nassau Health Care Corp., or NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran appointed him to last year. He has also served as the hospital’s interim president since October following the resignation of Winnie Mack of New Hyde Park-based health care group Northwell Health, who did a six-month stint as NUMC CEO. And last year, the NuHealth board named Dr. Paul A. Pipia its interim CEO after the board voted to fire its previous president, Dr. Victor Politi, who was appointed by former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano in 2014.
“Nassau County has an enormous financial stake in the hospital’s proper operation,” Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who leads the Democratic minority in the county legislature, said last month while urging the body’s Republican majority to hold hearings into patronage at NUMC. He noted that Nassau taxpayers are the guarantors of about $200 million in NUMC’s debt.
The 530-bed NUMC, founded in 1935, is the region’s lone public hospital. It serves as a safety net for uninsured patients and neediest populations. In an effort to turn around the financially strapped medical center, Northwell Health this year got New York State approval to enter a management consulting partnership with NUMC to help devise a long-term plan for the struggling hospital.
“As a safety net hospital, Nassau University Medical Center has a long tradition of caring for tens of thousands of needy patients,” said Michael J. Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, which has had an affiliation with NUMC since 2005. “As Nassau County’s and New York State’s largest health care provider, Northwell believes we have a social responsibility to assist NuHealth, which is an indispensable asset and critical resource for residents of Nassau County.”
Under the three-year strategic transformation advisory services agreement, a team of Northwell’s administrative and clinical leaders will identify operational, management, and strategic needs, and develop recommendations to improve them. The NuHealth board will then review the recommendations for possible adoption. How that partnership will fare after Tsunis’ departure remains to be seen.
Besides inking that deal, Tsunis tenure also included last month negotiating a contract for NUMC’s 3,000 employees, who had been working without a contract since last year, and rooting out patronage employees appointed by the previous administration.
While running for county executive, Curran held a news conference outside of NUMC and called for an end to patronage, the act of appointing politically connected employees, at the hospital, which has long hired workers tied to the administration in power at the time.
“Unfortunately, NUMC, while providing critical care to so many, has become another symbol of the culture of corruption in Nassau County,” Curran said in front of the hospital in 2017. “Politics should and must play no role whatsoever in the appointment of the NUMC Board of Directors or staffing of the administration. I vow to appoint directors who have expertise in finance, health systems, marketing and the other areas necessary for real leadership — and members without conflicts of interest. I will not, under any circumstance, appoint any Board Members who will allow waste of hospital funds to continue.”
The search for a new NUMC CEO has reportedly been narrowed down to two candidates. They are seasoned hospital leader John Gupta and ex-deputy Nassau exec Tom Stokes, who worked for Tom Suozzi, Newsday reported.
Will Tsunis’ replacement stay in the post longer and give the hospital the steady leadership that it needs? Stay tuned.