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NUMC gets federal subpoenas focused on spending of state funds, George Tsunis says

Nassau University Medical Center on July 15, 2011.

Nassau University Medical Center on July 15, 2011. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Nassau University Medical Center has received federal subpoenas focused on funding the hospital receives from a state program that rewards hospitals for improvements that result in fewer visits to the hospital and emergency room, said George Tsunis, head of the public benefit corporation that runs the hospital.

The corporation, known as NuHealth, voted Sept. 9 to boost the spending authorization for its outside counsel, Abrams Fensterman LLP, by $200,000, “due to work on a Federal subpoena,” according to minutes from the East Meadow-based health system.

Tsunis declined to detail the records the subpoenas from the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York are seeking.

However, Tsunis said they are probing the way state Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program money has been spent. Created by the state in 2014, the program backs reforms designed to cut down on avoidable hospital visits by 25 percent over five years. 

“In this particular matter, we hired one of the premier firms to represent NUMC in these subpoenas, where we are making sure that over the last four years, [state] DSRIP funds were properly spent," Tsunis said. "This is the seminal oversight responsibility of the board.”

Tsunis has touted his termination of employees and contracts he said were politically connected. “The taxpayers deserve no less, as for many years, NUMC has been treated as a cash cow, even though the cow didn’t have any cash here.”

Tsunis added, “It’s a process that we started — we went to them and said we think there’s an issue here,” Tsunis said.

NuHealth General Counsel Megan Ryan said the health system is using the Lake Success-based law firm because partner Kenneth Abel had worked previously with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District.

“As always, we self-report, cooperate with the government, with all legal law enforcement entities, and I'm always in contact with them,” Ryan said.

She continued, “whenever there’s an issue, we are the ones that contact law enforcement. … We notify law enforcement, we do our proper reporting.”

John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment.

Erin Silk, a spokeswoman for the state Health Department, said the agency "as a general policy, does not comment on federal subpoenas."

Tsunis said that since he became chairman in February 2018, NuHealth has dealt with 1,829 subpoenas from federal, state, and county law enforcement agencies.

“Overwhelmingly these are matters that we self-reported to the authorities when we felt there were inappropriate things that had been occurring or were occurring at NUMC in an effort to stop prior bad practices,” Tsunis said.

Tsunis called the reporting part of “a deliberate plan to end patronage and corruption at NUMC."

The public hospital has struggled financially over the past few years. It posted a $46.6 million operating loss in 2018, compared with a loss of $25.7 million in 2017.

NuHealth had a $587.6 million operating budget last year.

Nassau County guaranteed $188 million in outstanding NuHealth debt as the end of last year, according to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board.

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