OpEd: The Crisis At Nassau University Medical Center – Stop Pointing Fingers And Start Fixing The Problems

Police and sheriffs search for a suspect who stabbed an officer at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014.

The crisis engulfing Nassau County’s main  safety net hospital providing trauma care  and medical services to the poor and uninsured has devolved into finger pointing and partisan rancor at exactly the wrong time. 

All stakeholders must get on the same page  to save Nassau University Medical Center,  the county’s only public hospital. And they  have to do it quickly. That will require  increased state aid, as well as a transparent  look at current expenditures and potential  savings in order to augment the financial  viability of the hospital. 

The crisis is now, as state health regulators  warn NUMC and NuHealth, the public  benefit corporation that runs the hospital,  could run out of money by late April unless  it rights its ship. An independent auditor  reported the hospital lost $560 million over  five years. The County of Nassau faces  liability because they are a guarantor of the  debt of the hospital. 

Nassau officials, including County  Executive Bruce Blakeman, ascribe blame to Albany for cutting subsidies – which  Albany disputes – and officials in Albany have alleged that there is mismanagement  at the hospital. 

Nassau officials claim the state has  shortchanged NUMC in recent years, while state officials say they have increased direct  aid as well as covered insurance premiums which are in danger of lapsing. State Health  Commissioner James McDonald has demanded greater transparency before the state pours more money into the system. 

Each side lays out different numbers,  including how much cash on hand the  hospital has, whether they are counting state aid that covered insurance payments  for the hospital staff, and whether the state  cut aid for partisan reasons after Blakeman  took office. 

Newsday, in a recent editorial, called  NUMC’s finances “a complex house of cards, and wrote that “everyone must stop the finger-pointing and start the hard work to resuscitate NUMC.” 

At stake is a public benefit corporation that is essential for Long Islanders who are poor,  or without insurance, who have nowhere to go in a medical emergency, as well as the paychecks and retirement benefits of all of  the nurses, doctors, and administrative staff  who serve the hospital. 

Time is short. The stakes are high. It is time  for the state to step up and provide the  hospital the funds it requires to service those on Long Island who most need the medical care it provides. Let’s get to it.


Howard Fensterman is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Abrams Fensterman LLP, based in Lake Success