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NIFA authorizes rejection of $50G contracts for corp that runs NUMC

At the podium, NIFA General Counsel Jeremy Wise

At the podium, NIFA General Counsel Jeremy Wise speaks with board members Howard Weitzman, Christopher P. Wright, Chairman, Adam Barsky, Paul D. Annunziato, Paul J. Leventhal and Executive Director Evan Cohen as they discuss the Nassau University Medical Center during a Feb. 4 meeting in Uniondale. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Nassau County's financial control board voted Tuesday night to authorize the rejection of major contracts of $50,000 for the public benefit corporation that runs Nassau University Medical Center. 

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority approved the measures in an unusual nearly two-hour conference call, amid concerns about the coronavirus.

The board voted to take significant control over contracts with NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that runs NUMC.

NIFA staff will approve contracts valued at $50,000 or more and NIFA chairman Adam Barsky, or a board member of his choice, will approve contracts of between $500,000 and $5 million.The six-member NIFA board must vote to approve contracts of $5 million or more.

The measures cover personal service agreements, including legal contracts and employee agreements, such as deals with labor unions, asset sales and all revenue contracts.

NIFA is exercising new oversight powers after it voted Feb. 4 to take over the finances of NuHealth. NIFA also controls the finances of Nassau County.

NIFA general counsel Jeremy Wise said NuHealth officials submitted contracting guidelines on March 3, and county officials did not provide suggestions. He said the rules are "substantially similar” to what controls NIFA imposes over Nassau.

Barsky said he wanted to make sure that the new guidelines for NuHealth, as well as information requests made at the February meeting, are "not in any way slowing down their operations."

He said he wanted to make sure the requests for information and contract approvals did not "hamper the hospital’s ability to do their business, attain necessary, critical medical items," or  "in any way slow down their operations."

Wise said NIFA requests “will not slow down their operations," and NIFA can make “adjustments as we go.”

Carl Dreyer, NIFA's treasurer, said NuHealth has provided half the items NIFA had requested last month, including records of payroll and fringe benefits, their annual budget, and monthly financials for January. NIFA has yet to receive from NuHealth board agendas and minutes, and interagency activity with the county, among other records.

Wise said the hospital has a "minuscule finance staff."

Dreyer said the hospital had changed its financial projections. Earlier, NuHealth was projected to run "out of cash in November," but officials found some additional money from the state's Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment, or DSRIP, program, to carry "them through the end of March 2021."

January finanicals showed an operating loss of $12.2 million, "an acceleration" from prior months. In October, the figure was $3.9 million, and in November, $4 million, and in December, $6.7 million.

Officials from NIFA and the county are closely watching the finances of Nassau's only public hospital. Nassau backs $188 million in hospital debt, according to NIFA.

In January, the board issued a request for proposals seeking a turnaround consultant to shore up NUMC's finances, but NIFA has yet to approve a contract with a firm.

Under the measures approved Tuesday night, NuHealth must submit forms to NIFA disclosing vendors' political donations to county officials; any lobbyists used by the vendor; and relationships between vendors and NuHealth officials or employees.

Also, NuHealth must provide a list of all respondents to requests for proposals, from the lowest to the highest bidders. If a vendor was chosen but did not provide the lowest bid, NuHealth must provide an explanation.

NuHealth also must provide NIFA with "business history" forms showing when the company was formed.

Also Tuesday, NIFA approved a six-month, $10.5 million contract to an extend an agreement allowing NuHealth to continue providing health care to inmates at the county's correctional facility. The agreement runs until August 31, 2020, and the county and hospital are negotiating a long-term agreement.

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