Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, NuHealth Chairman Matthew Bruderman, union leaders and hospital officials gather in East Meadow to oppose legislation that would give the state control over the governing board of Nassau University Medical Center.   Credit: Newsday/Debbie Egan-Chin

ALBANY — Democratic state officials and Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman are waging an increasingly intense fight this week over control of the governing board of Nassau University Medical Center, with each side saying they must prevail to assure the hospital remains open.

A legislative bill in Albany would provide Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democratic leaders of the State Senate and Assembly far greater control over the appointment of most voting members on the hospital’s board. The governor also would appoint the board chairman and CEO. The measure is needed to stave off “mismanagement” and the hiring of unqualified patronage appointments” at the 530-bed teaching hospital in East Meadow, state officials said.

The proposal seeks to “ensure the governor and State Legislature can sufficiently manage and oversee funds invested into Nassau University Medical Center.”

On Monday Blakeman called the state effort “political shenanigans.”

“We are going to fight that fight,” Blakeman said Monday. He said the bill in Albany seeks “a state takeover of this hospital. Why? Because they want to close it. First, they want to control it, then they want to close it.”

“We are here for one mission … and that is to save our hospital,” Blakeman said at a rally at the medical center on Monday. “I’m not going to rest until we make sure they have the foundation, they have the resources and they have the support to flourish.”

The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) and Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead), deny they want to close the hospital.

Nassau University Medical Center, inside the Burn Unit, March 28,...

Nassau University Medical Center, inside the Burn Unit, March 28, 2022 in East Meadow, NY. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Instead, they say the long-term operation of the hospital needs “competent, qualified individuals who will professionalize and depoliticize the operations.” They say the politicization of the hospital began under former Republican County Executive Ed Mangano who served from 2010 to 2017. He has since been convicted on corruption charges.

“We cannot risk losing years of progress at NUMC to the same cronyism and corruption that ran rampant during the Mangano era,” said Darling and Thomas in a joint statement Monday. “If Mr. Blakeman and his administration continue down this path, NUMC may be forced to close its doors forever.”

They specifically cite Blakeman’s decision this year to appoint business owner Matthew Bruderman, a Republican donor without health care experience, as board chairman. To make room for him on the board, Blakeman dismissed a director who was appointed by former Democratic County Executive Laura Curran. Blakeman’s appointment is being challenged in court.

Currently, the governing board has 15 voting directors. Eight were appointed by the governor, three by the county executive, and four appointed by county legislative leaders.

The bill would increase the board to 21 voting members: 10 appointed by the governor, two by the Senate majority leader, two appointed by the Assembly speaker, three by the county executive and four by county legislative leaders.

Darling and Thomas said the bill isn’t a state power grab, but a way to assure appointment of “competent, qualified individuals who will professionalize and depoliticize the operations.”

The proposal is part of budget negotiations this week. But the proposal is also a bill with strong sponsors that could be acted upon in the legislative session after the budget is adopted. The budget is due Friday.

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