Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.

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

The New York State Department of Health gave Nassau County's only public safety net hospital ample opportunity to make the case for the funding it needs. First, it had to fully comply with the demands and contingencies state officials laid out in March. 

But time and again, the leadership of Nassau University Medical Center and its public benefit corporation, Nassau Health Care Corp., has failed to recognize the severity of the crisis now engulfing the hospital. Even when addressing some of the state's requests, those officials have failed to accept the hospital's challenges with the urgency and willingness necessary. Major reforms are needed. Executing them successfully requires an honest understanding of the complexities involved.

State officials, with the support and assistance of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board, must take charge and make the hard decisions that are in the best interests of the hospital and its patients. That starts with installing new leaders who are knowledgeable and experienced.

NUMC chairman Matthew Bruderman and interim chief executive Megan Ryan have attempted to convince state officials they can manage the hospital and the A. Holly Patterson nursing home. In their most recent letter to the state, Bruderman and Ryan attempted to explain why NIFA doesn't and shouldn't have the power to approve NUMC appointments and management hires. Such an argument made in their own self-interest to maintain control deflects any acknowledgment of their own shortcomings.

The search for a new chief executive, too, has been insufficient. Despite the state Health Department's request for a detailed plan for an external CEO search, Bruderman and Ryan responded with a single paragraph with no details while complaining that “negative press” made the search challenging. “Negative press” isn't the problem.

NUMC's five-year transformation plan, as outlined last week in the pair's latest correspondence, doesn't go far enough. The plan lacks vision and any discussion of how to re-imagine the hospital, its sizable property, or the nursing home. Instead, Bruderman and Ryan emphasize revenue enhancements and cost savings already in the works while suggesting there's more to be done in areas like reducing claim denials or overtime. These are mere changes around the edges, not needed remedies for a hospital in deep financial trouble, whose cash on hand continues to fluctuate into dangerously low territory.

State officials, starting with Gov. Kathy Hochul, must act quickly and decisively. Their best move is to take over and install a temporary operator or somehow install new leadership that can give NUMC a new start. Governance, too, is key; extensive changes to the hospital board, currently filled with holdovers and political donors, are needed. Only after those moves are made should the state consider providing the hospital with additional funding.

Rethinking NUMC means exploring all possibilities for its land, facilities, and services. But first, and soon, the state must provide experienced and steady leadership.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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