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NUMC moves to curb termination pay for appointees by 60%

Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow is

Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow is seen Friday July 15, 2011. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Termination pay for political appointees who leave the Nassau Health Care Corp. would be cut by  60 percent under a proposal backed by the chairman of the health system that runs Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow and associated facilities.

Payouts for nonunion workers hired on or after Oct. 1 would be limited to 80 sick and 36 vacation days, compared with the current caps of 200 sick and 90 vacation days, under a resolution scheduled for a vote Thursday night.

The issue of termination pay for unused sick and vacation time  has come under scrutiny in Nassau County and at the health system in recent weeks.

Newsday reported last month that Nassau had paid more than $2.5 million to 75 nonunion workers who left county service after the November election of new Democratic County Executive Laura Curran.

The Nassau Health Care Corp., or NuHealth, paid more than $562,000 in severance to nine employees who left, plus roughly $300,000 to six of those employees in accrued sick and vacation time, according to the Newsday report, which was based in public records.

George Tsunis, a Curran appointee who has been in chairman of the NUMC board since February , said Newsday’s report “clearly, highlighted something that needed to change and we could no longer afford.”

“It was something that was materially different from what the private sector had, and the amounts have become staggering," Tsunis said. "The long-term liability on the hospital's books continues to grow, and we have to take steps to arrest it.”

Tsunis said the resolution that will come before the NuHealth board would not affect severance agreements, which he said produce long-term savings and avoid costly litigation. “Then you permanently get them off your payroll,” he said.

The health system has 63 nonunion employees and 3,272 union workers.

Termination pay policies vary at other public hospitals  in New York State, which treat many patients who are low-income, uninsured, and receiving Medicaid benefits, according to hospital representatives.

At both Stony Brook Medical Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, non-union exempt employees can be paid for up to 30 days’ vacation time, but no sick time.

At Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York , nonunion exempt employees can accrue paid time on a tiered scale. Employees can be paid for up to 27 days of paid-time off if they have served up to 5 years; 34.5 days, if they have between 5 and 10 years; 42 days, if they have between 10 and 15 years; and 46.5 days, if they have more than 15 years.

At Westchester Medical Center, the cap is 40 vacation days, and 50 percent of accrued sick time hours capped at approximately $53 per hour.

The Nassau County Legislature also is to review its termination pay policies.

A bill to be debated next week would cut termination pay in half for nonunion employees hired on or after Oct. 1. The bill by Legis. Denise Ford, a Long Beach Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, would allow payouts of up to 40 unused vacation days and 85 sick days.

Current county policy allows nonunion workers hired after Aug. 15, 2014, to be paid for up to 75 vacation days and 175 sick days. Employees hired before that date can be paid for up to 90 vacation days and 200 sick days.

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