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Southside Hospital overbilled Suffolk County more than $500,000, audit concludes

Southside Hospital in Bay Shore is shown on

Southside Hospital in Bay Shore is shown on Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Suffolk County overpaid more than $500,000 to Southside Hospital for running a health clinic from 2009 through 2011, according to audits by the county comptroller to be released Monday.

The hospital improperly charged the county for resident physician services provided outside of the Brentwood Health Center or that the hospital couldn't attribute directly to the clinic.

The audits said the reported costs "did not provide a benefit to the Suffolk County program."

Only 52 percent of county funding between 2010 and 2011 was supported by direct services at the health center, according to an audit analysis.

"The county cannot be in the business of subsidizing physician salaries at Southside Hospital," Suffolk County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki said in an interview.

One audit covered 2009, which found the county overpaid $26,179 after the hospital was credited for some expenses it underbilled. The other audit covered 2010 and 2011, and concluded the county overpaid $507,656.

Southside Hospital's management disputed the findings and said the disagreement comes from differing interpretations of contract language.

"We strongly disagree with any suggestion that the county is being overbilled for services being provided by Southside Hospital," according to a statement from Terry Lynam, spokesman for North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, which includes Southside in Bay Shore. "We are working amicably with the county to resolve our differences."

Officials said hospital residents covered Southside Hospital's emergency room around the clock for the admission of patients from the health clinic, according to a three-page response from North Shore-LIJ deputy executive director Robert Power. Residents also performed after-hour follow-up phone calls to clinic patients. "These residents performed numerous direct patient care services both at the Brentwood Health Center and at Southside Hospital," the letter stated.

Unlike other Health Center employees, resident physicians weren't required to use the health center's electronic time recording system, according to the audits.

Sawicki said the county would be sending a demand letter in 30 days for payment of $533,835. If the hospital refuses to pay, the county can withhold money from future payments to Southside. The county owes about $7 million for services provided by Southside Hospital in the second half of 2014.

The county contracts with Southside Hospital to provide services at health care centers in Brentwood and Amityville. Patients are charged a fee based on income, although no one can be denied services because of an inability to pay.

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