Editorial: Nassau hospital a challenging post for new chief

Victor Politi on Dec. 18, 2013. Politi, who Victor Politi on Dec. 18, 2013. Politi, who has served as Nassau County's acting police commissioner and is a former Nassau police surgeon, will oversee Nassau University Medical Center and other facilities that serve the poor as chief executive of the Nassau Health Care Corp. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Indeed, the "nationwide" search promised for the new chief of Nassau County's public hospital didn't extend beyond the county's borders. Actually, it didn't even get out of the confines of Mineola.

Dr. Victor Politi, a physician and police officer who as deputy director for public safety worked several doors down from County Executive Edward Mangano, starts on the job Monday at the Nassau University Medical Center. For the sake of the patients who benefit from the hospital's recently improved medical services, the demoralized staff members who lost a gifted leader, and the county taxpayers who need another wizard to balance the books as health care financing shifts dramatically, let's hope Mangano has fixed the big mistake he made in not keeping chief executive Arthur Gianelli.

Days after his re-election in the fall, Mangano didn't renew Gianelli's contract while the county Republican party assertively sought to milk more patronage from the health system. Mangano said he wanted to "explore the brain trust" to see what other ideas were out there to keep the hospital's finances stable. Another finalist in the nationwide search was Bruce Blakeman, former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, who sought both the Nassau University Medical Center post and the still-vacant county police commissioner job.

Politi seems to be Mangano's go-to guy. He had been acting Nassau County police commissioner since mid-December, after Mangano was forced to fire Thomas Dale following disclosures that Dale abused his office by interfering in an election-year scheme to help his boss get re-elected.

Politi is well liked. He was an attending physician at the medical center, director of emergency medicine at the now-closed St. John's Queens Hospital, and medical director at Cornerstone of Medical Arts Center in Fresh Meadows, a small substance-abuse treatment center. So he has some administrative knowledge, but hasn't run anything the size of the Nassau University Medical Center system, which has 531 hospital beds and 589 nursing home beds.

Politi is taking on an enormous task at a precarious time everywhere for the delivery of health care. He will need to surround himself with an experienced staff that has the financial acumen and the nimbleness to navigate the state and federal health care bureaucracy. And he should reconsider his unnecessary call for a "forensic audit," which is usually done as evidence in legal cases, not to help someone understand a balance sheet.

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Under Gianelli -- now the chief executive of St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan, as well as a key executive in the Mount Sinai Health System, which operates St. Luke's -- the Nassau hospital's books were balanced. That was not always the case in the past, and certainly not with other public hospitals in the metropolitan area struggling to keep their doors open. Politi will find solid plans in place to cut costs, expand primary and outpatient care, and reduce inpatient beds. He must make sure cash flow is consistent and steady, a task that requires constant oversight. And Politi must move ahead quickly to implement the hospital's affiliation with the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

Gianelli was able to reinvest $200 million to improve the look and feel of what had been a tired facility, capped by the modernization of the emergency room and oncology center. These efforts must continue.

Mangano broke what had been fixed. Politi doesn't have a lot of time or a big margin of error to make the public forget that.

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