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CSEA: Nassau County Should Take Back Control of Hospital

CSEA Nassau Local 830, Nassau County’s largest public service union, has called for the county to either take back control of Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) from its Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) or create a special taxing district to create a new revenue stream for the facility. The Nassau Health Care Corporation (NHCC) is comprised of NUMC, A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility and several outlying clinics. The NHCC is a public multi-facility system that provides comprehensive, high quality health care to residents regardless of ability to pay.

According to CSEA Local 830 President Jerry Laricchiuta, changes need to be made in the way the hospital is funded in order to secure its future.

“There needs to be additional funding, whether it be the county taking back total control of the facility or a special taxing district for NUMC. We are open to discussing any options,” stated Laricchiuta.

According to Kara Guy of the Nassau County Press Office, “The county sold the hospital years ago and currently does not have any plans to buy it back or take over.”

“The county executive has advocated the consolidation of special districts and is not in favor of establishing a new one,” Guy added.

NUMC spokesperson Shelley Lotenberg said that NUMC’s goal is “not to be a burden to the taxpayers of Nassau County, but rather an asset.”

“In times of economic difficulties, unlike the CSEA, the NHCC has not asked Nassau’s taxpayers for a handout. The CSEA is the one asking for a handout as they do not want to give up any concessions. Everyone needs to calm down and meet at the negotiating table. CSEA should negotiate with management and let NHCC focus on quality issues. The union should help NHCC achieve vision for 21st century, instead the union is still stuck on vision from the 1970s,” Lotenberg said.

NUMC was sold from Nassau County to the PBC on Sept. 29, 1999. Legislation would be required in order for a transfer of ownership, or creation of a special taxing district. CSEA states they will undertake a preliminary investigation regarding both options.

“A $34.2 million deficit is projected for 2010, spurring on this need for an investigation by the CSEA. In order to recoup that money, NHCC Chief Executive Officer Art Gianelli has included in his 2009-2010 initiatives restructuring employee health insurance, restructuring the current collective bargaining agreement and laying off at least 350 CSEA members at a total of $12 million,” reads a prepared statement.

Laricchiuta stressed that all this has been done before. “We have been through layoffs. We have over 1,000 less employees than we did seven years ago. We restructured employee health benefits in the last contract by new hires paying 15 percent into their health insurance for the first five years,” he stated, adding, “We need to get this hospital under control.”

Lotenberg stated that NHCC has made a lot of progress but has “experienced the same financial challenges as other hospitals.”

“This present NHCC administration, led by Art Gianelli, has been able to deliver the best results since any previous administration in the last decade,” she added. “AHP has made a profit and has turned around, with an emphasis on quality care. Major modernization is taking place, redevelopment plans of NUMC/ AHP campus are on drawing boards and quality initiatives are being implemented. CSEA is not giving it a chance to succeed and it can be done.”

Laricchiuta went on to say that, “Under county control there would be a greater accountability on spending, including a system of checks and balances where contracts and new hires in administration would go before the Legislature. That kind of system is not present in the NHCC.”

Lotenberg added that CSEA leaders must be “worried about negotiating, after having attended only one meeting, which was not a substantial session, as only ground rules were discussed at the one meeting held so far.”

“For over a year, the CSEA has been encouraged to sit down and work together with management to help the NHCC,” she stated.

Jaime L. Tomeo contributed to this article.