Law enforcement officials are investigating how the Nassau Health Care Corporation, which runs Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, recently spent federal grant dollars intended to provide preventive care services for low-income patients.
Called Delivery System Incentive Payment funds, the grant money comes from the Medicaid system.
George Tsunis, who was appointed the NHCC chairman in 2018 and is now also the interim president and CEO of NUMC, said he had received 1,829 subpoenas from county, state and federal law enforcement agencies demanding information on how the hospital has spent the money.
Tsunis reported concerns about the funding to law enforcement shortly after he became the NHCC chairman. Many of the subpoenas predate his time there.
County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, brought in Tsunis nearly two years ago to root out possible corruption at the hospital, she said. Since then, he has fired nine employees and canceled a number of contracts that he said were politically connected to the Republican Party.
On Nov. 1, the County Legislature’s Democratic minority called on Republicans to schedule a hearing and conduct an investigation into how federal funds were being spent at the hospital.
Legislator Kevan Abrahams, a Democrat from Hempstead who is the minority leader, said that a public hearing could promote transparency and allow potential whistleblowers to come forward.
In March, Abrahams and fellow Democrat Delia DeRiggi-Whitton wrote a letter to the Legislature’s presiding officer, Republican Richard Nicolello, requesting that he hold public hearings to investigate Tsunis’s concerns and determine whether grant funds were misused.
Abrahams said he was concerned with how the Legislature’s Republican majority has ignored corruption, saying members turned a blind eye to former County Executive Ed Mangano’s public corruption.
“They put their heads in the sand and hope it goes away, but it never goes away,” Abrahams said. Referring to the subpoenas send to Tsunis, he added, “Our prediction is that this could lead to several indictments.”
Abrahams said that he trusted Tsunis’s judgment, and lauded the decisions that he has made since he was appointed, but said the chairman could not correct the funding concerns “with one wave of a wand.” Additional assistance from the Legislature is needed, Abrahams said.
Nicolello would not commit to a hearing, saying, “We will continue to monitor the situation as these investigations proceed.”
Nicolello also blasted Abrahams for requesting a hearing on Nov. 1, only four days before the election. “It was nothing more than an election eve gambit designed to highlight Democratic talking points,” Nicolello said.
Thomas McKevitt, a Republican from East Meadow, agreed with Nicolello, and said that it would be redundant for the Legislature to launch an investigation when county, state and federal governments are already involved in one. “Sometimes you may impede their investigation, and may not even be aware that you are doing so,” McKevitt said.
“I think the most pressing issue right now is finding permanent leadership,” he added, referring to NUMC.
NUMC has had leadership troubles in recent years. McKevitt referenced the search for a permanent president and chief executive officer, a role that Tsunis has filled for the past month.