22 LONGISLANDPRESS.COM • SEPTEMBER 2019
NUMC CHAIRMAN GEORGE TSUNIS
THE TURNAROUND MAN BY JAMES BERNSTEIN
George Tsunis has cut through what
he sees as political patronage jobs at
Nassau University Medical Center,
where is now board chairman, with
a buzz saw. He has cut other fat out of
the hospital’s budget and is seeking a
new direction for the county’s only
hospital. Tsunis is a hotelier, political
fundraiser, and an attorney. He lives
on the North Shore of Nassau County
with his wife and two children.
The job you took Feb. 1, 2018 has a lot
of challenges. Why did you accept
it? I think every person in Nassau
County is entitled to medical care
despite their circumstances. There’s
a need on Long Island to make sure
we have behavioral and addictive
services. I feel obligated to see to it
that NUMC is a big part of that.
How have you found the job so far? I
don’t come from the medical world. I
took this job to clean out what I found
to be the biggest political patronage
pit I have ever seen. There is no
place for patronage or cronyism at
the hospital. We terminated about
115 patronage position and we were
able to hire about 30 clinical social
Could you comment on a recent
audit by the accounting firm Grant
Thornton that found significant
operating losses and raised “substantial
doubt” about the hospital’s
ability to continue as a going concern?
The situation at the hospital is
serious. A significant number of the
patients we serve are Medicare or
Medicaid patients.A number are also
undocumented, with no insurance
at all. We are making nothing from
them. But that is part of our mission.
We are not supposed to make money.
The problem is state aid programs are
due to sunset. I do not believe they
will. I have worked very hard to see
that they will be extended. But they
have not as yet been.
But this hospital can’t disappear,
can it? I think if the hospital had
continued on the old ways, there is a
greater likelihood it would have.
Can you comment on the $46.6 million
operating loss Grant Thornton
found? There have been operating
losses at this hospital since the beginning
of time. We had litigation
costs that went back years and years
that partly accounted for the loss.
Prior management was kicking the
can down the road. We needed to
make these payments. We also cut
$30 million in fat out of our budget.
But we still have a long way to go.
About three months ago, you
brought in the giant Northwell
Health to assist NUMC. What role
will Northwell play? They are working
on helping us create a management
infrastructure. They are tasked
to provide a long-term strategic
plan. They have an employee-lease
plan where their professionals are
leased to NUMC to bring in more
competence and help with
How are you
to the state
Ser v i c e ,
w h i c h
p u b l i c
b e n e f i t
N U M C
million in health care premiums
for its employees? I have been in
negotiations over that. We have an
agreement in principle. It’s not signed
yet. I have 3,500 CSEA Civil Service
Employees Association employees
who are counting on health insurance.
I am committed to that.
Have you put a stop to what you considered
inappropriate travel, such
as the $113,000 Caribbean trip taken
by some executives? Completely. I
found it completely inappropriate
that senior executives went to the
Caribbean. I recently sent a team to
Montreal for a
them fly there in the morning and
return in the afternoon. They had
the meeting at the airport. I told them
they had a choice: They could have a
Big Mac or a whopper.
What do you see as your biggest
challenge? There are many. There
are the antiquated rules of civil service
that take us back to the ’50s and
’60s. We need to modernize. We need
civil service to enter the 21st century.
How long do you think you will
be in this job? I will stay until I
feel we have turned the corner and
the hospital is running with competency.
We need to change
from a sickness model to a
We have to educate the
community we serve
before they get sick.
They don’t always
have access to medical
care. We need to
raise the vitality of
we serve. We need to
make them healthier.
"I will stay until I feel we have turned the corner
and the hospital is running with competency."
is helping turn