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$475,000 salary for NuHealth operating chief; raises, promotions for others 

Nassau University Medical Center emergency room entrance on

Nassau University Medical Center emergency room entrance on Friday, Mar. 27, 2020. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The board that runs Nassau University Medical Center, which is struggling with multimillion-dollar operating deficits, has voted to hire former Nassau Deputy County Executive John Donnelly as the board's chief operating officer at a salary of $475,000.

The NuHealth board last Thursday also voted to raise the salary of general counsel Megan Ryan, NuHealth's executive vice president for legal affairs, by $93,000, to $450,000 a year.

The board agreed to promote Dr. Anthony Boutin, NUMC's acting chief executive and president since January, to the permanent position at a salary of $535,000. Boutin, who had been making $357,000 annually, retains the posts of chief medical officer and emergency department chairman.

The hirings, raises and promotions come as NuHealth administrators await a final report from consultants Alvarez & Marsal, who are reviewing the finances and operations of the struggling health care system.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls county and hospital finances, hired the firm. Donnelly, who served as county personnel director under County Executive Tom Suozzi, now a Democratic House member from Glen Cove, will help enact the firm's recommendations, said NuHealth board chairman Robert Detor.

Donnelly was approved in an 8-5 vote. Boutin's nomination and Ryan's salary increase passed without opposition.

In October, the consultants issued a report warning that NuHealth could run a deficit of up to $197 million in 2021 without major subsidies.

Asked about the salaries for Donnelly, Ryan and Boutin, Detor said Monday: "Undoubtedly, it's a significant amount of money, but we’re dealing with a half-a-billion-dollar corporation in the hospital industry. Those salaries, while they are a lot of money, they are comparable with what the industry demands, and when you look at it, if this team can turn the hospital around, the millions they're going to save us is going to be negligible compared to what we’re going to save in salaries."

Donnelly, Ryan and Boutin declined to comment about their salaries.

Donnelly is chief talent officer at the law firm of Jackson Lewis, which has offices in New York City, Long Island and across the nation, and also served on Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's transition team after her election in 2017.

The split vote on Donnelly's nomination reflected partisan divides on the board.

Some board members, labor union leaders and elected officials have expressed concern about the consultant's involvement in hospital operations, saying it could lead to downsizing of NUMC, Nassau's only public hospital.

The board in 2018 hired Donald Ashkenase to serve as chief operating officer, for a salary of $240,000, but he left the hospital within a year.

Some board members said Detor, who was appointed by Curran, had surprised them with Donnelly's nomination.

Board member Warren Zysman argued that Donnelly lacked health care experience and said trustees should have had time to vet him. Trustees Steve Cohn and Russell Caprioli also expressed concerns.

"How did you come to $475,000 when that is at least $200,000 higher than the last person who held that job?" Zysman asked at the board meeting last week.

Addressing Detor, Zysman said: "We didn't get presented any information on this man tonight, other than you hand-selected him. I don't know how you can ask anyone to vote on anything, Bob, when you've provided no resume, no salary information. … "

Detor said Donnelly "brings experience from a corporate environment, of executing performance improvement projects, understanding finance, information technology, and other operations such as human resources. He also has labor experience, which is important."

Detor also said NuHealth's "future viability will always depend on government subsidy. So, experience and relationships with government is important, and Donnelly also brings that."

Detor continued, "what we need is execution and that’s what he will bring, execution in a timely manner."

Donnelly said in an interview that he was, "very excited to play whatever role is required to make sure this hospital continues to serve the residents of Nassau County."

In October, board members introduced a resolution to make Ryan NuHealth's chief operating officer. The measure didn't pass after it was reintroduced.

Curran, who must sign off on Boutin's promotion as NUMC's chief, objected at the time to combining the general counsel position with that of chief operating officer.

"I am concerned about Dr. Boutin’s proposed supporting team," Curran wrote to Detor on Oct. 16

In a statement Monday, Curran praised the NuHealth board, "on their selection of a high quality management team."

She said the group "has the knowledge to responsibly manage day-to-day operations while ensuring the hospital remains focused on its core mission of serving the community through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond."

Boutin said Donnelly "brings a lot of years of experience both at the county level," and in the private sector, and predicted Donnelly will "be able to work with the state to get us more funding."

Boutin continued: "As long as we have some buy in and we work together, I’ll get the staff at the hospital to buy in, I think we can get what we want. I think we can go a long ways with the team we’re assembling."

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