Bill would deny funding to firm overseeing Foley's closing

A Suffolk legislative committee on Thursday sent a A Suffolk legislative committee on Thursday sent a bill to deny funding to the firm overseeing closure of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility to the full county legislature, where approval is uncertain. Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

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A Suffolk legislative committee on Thursday sent a bill to deny funding to the firm overseeing closure of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility to the full county legislature, where approval is uncertain.

The proposal by Legis. Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) would cancel $205,000 in funding for CMS Compliance Group of Melville to administer the closure plan for the 264-bed home in Yaphank. The Health Committee voted to discharge the resolution without recommendation.

County Executive Steve Bellone has moved to close the facility because his effort to sell it for $23 million to private operators Samuel and Israel Sherman has stalled.

He says the county, which is facing a budget deficit of up to $250 million through the end of next year, cannot afford a $12 million annual subsidy to keep the facility operating.

As a stopgap, Bellone has proposed leasing the home to the Shermans, provided a majority of Foley's 180 workers agree to drop their lawsuit against the sale. In exchange, the workers would be guaranteed their county wages and comparable benefits for 18 months after privatization. The union representing nursing home workers is scheduled to vote on the deal today.

At the committee meeting Thursday, some lawmakers questioned the cost of the CMS contract.

"We hear about $1 million a month, which is nonsense, and the $240 million hole, so why would we embrace $205,000?" said Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), an opponent of closing or leasing Foley.

However, legislative Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said the bill lacks the 10 votes necessary for approval when the legislature meets on Tuesday.

"Of course, we're all hopeful there remains that one path to keep the patients in their beds," Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said of the scheduled union vote. "We'll see how that goes."

Health Commissioner James Tomarken said CMS is advising employees who would be laid off and is assisting patients and their families in finding other nursing homes.

If the CMS funding is killed, "it would make the closure process close to impossible," Tomarken said.

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