Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.

Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

As first responders, we see firsthand the nature of the injuries and maladies of the people that we rescue, and that we transport to our various medical facilities here in Nassau County. We are aware of the nature of the facilities to which we transport our aided cases, and are familiar with the necessity for maintaining the appropriate level of care for all of those who find themselves in need.

That's why we are so concerned about the dire situation that threatens the existence of Nassau University Medical Center.

NUMC has an essential Level 1 Trauma Center. It also has Nassau County’s only burn center. Centrally located in East Meadow, NUMC is an average 10 to 15-minute ambulance ride from anywhere in its coverage area, which includes all of Nassau and much of western Suffolk and eastern Queens. If a patient suffers a serious trauma or burn injury, even a short ride can seem like an eternity. In a severe case, adding any appreciable amount of time to that ride will impact the ability of the attending staff to effectively deal with the medical issues, and could be fatal.

As first responders, we tend to think of these essential emergency facilities first when we evaluate NUMC’s importance.

So we have watched in dismay as New York State aid to NUMC has been cut by millions of dollars in recent years — years in which our state and local governments have been awash in COVID-19 funds, tobacco settlement funds, and opioid settlement funds. Why has funding to our public hospital been cut at a time when our need for this facility has grown more pressing? Why is this essential facility being threatened with closure?

Elected officials at all levels need to consider NUMC's importance as the region’s safety-net hospital for our poor, uninsured and underinsured population. This is a public hospital that will not turn anyone away, and which routinely provides a high level of care to those who need it the most.

Elected officials also ought to keep in mind the 3,500 dedicated health care professionals and staff who work so hard on behalf of their patients.

In recent news stories, we read endless vague accusations and demands made by people who seem more interested in upsetting political opponents than in working together to resolve this problem. In fact, Albany and Mineola, Democrats and Republicans, each appoint members to sit on the NuHealth Board, which oversees NUMC. They are all in a position to make fact findings, and to determine what specific problems need to be resolved.

The Nassau County Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, Nassau County Firefighters Association, Association of Fire Districts of Nassau County, and Nassau County Fire Commission together call on everyone involved to immediately end this internecine bickering, and to restore the proper funding that NUMC needs to operate effectively.

This guest essay reflects the views of Thomas E. Gaffney, chairman of the board of directors of the Nassau County Firefighters Burn Center Foundation.

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