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Nassau reaches pact with NUMC for jail health care

The Nassau County Jail in East Meadow.

The Nassau County Jail in East Meadow. Credit: / Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration said Tuesday it had reached an agreement with Nassau University Medical Center for the hospital to once again provide health care for jail inmates in a two-year deal worth $42 million that needs legislative approval.

The contract would change health care delivery at Nassau’s jail from a for-profit model that has drawn intense fire under current vendor Armor Correctional Health Services following a series of inmate deaths that led to lawsuits and criticisms from the state. The health care model would return to a system in which unionized county employees treat inmates on-site at the East Meadow jail.

Under proposed terms, the county would cover the hospital for any legal liability, and commit about $12.2 million for equipment and construction related to updating jail medical devices and facilities, along with the cost of converting to electronic records.

Mangano’s administration has been in negotiations since April with Nassau Health Care Corp. — the public benefit corporation that operates NUMC along with clinics that serve the poor. Those talks began in an effort to avert a gap in inmate medical care as Armor’s contract was ending and the county hadn’t hired a new vendor despite twice soliciting contract bids as the jail health care drew ire from Democratic public officials and inmate advocates. The county first inked a public-private partnership with Armor in mid-2011 in an attempt to save money.

The NUMC contract proposal says the hospital is willing to make an “interim” deal that shouldn’t exceed 24 months “in connection with its agreement to assist the county in avoiding a public health crisis” at the jail.

Deputy County Executive Charles Ribando said Tuesday the administration hopes the county legislature will approve the contract in July, setting up time for the jail to transition from Armor’s services to the hospital’s services. Armor’s recent three-month contract extension ends Aug. 31, and terms of NUMC’s contract would run from Sept. 1 until Aug. 31, 2019 at the latest.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority also would have to approve the contract, which records show, would require the county to pay NUMC four monthly payments — estimated at $1.75 million each — right away so the hospital can afford the deal.

NUMC spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said Tuesday that hospital officials were awaiting the reply of county officials who were reviewing the contract. Records show Nassau Health Care Corp. president and CEO Victor Politi signed the agreement Tuesday.

The county legislature’s Republican-controlled Rules Committee approved the contract extension for Armor at a 66 percent raise in May after administration officials said they had no alternative.

Legis. Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) called Armor’s tenure at the jail a “dark period” in the facility’s history, but also said Tuesday legislators would have to vet the proposed NUMC contract carefully and there should be a public hearing “since it looks like it could be a 100 percent increase in spending” over the previous jail contract.

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