Last Foley nursing home patient moves out

John J. Foley Nursing home in Yaphank. (April John J. Foley Nursing home in Yaphank. (April 9, 2013) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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The last patient was moved from Suffolk County's John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility Thursday, marking the end of a prolonged political fight over the home's future.

Aides to County Executive Steve Bellone said the final resident of the Yaphank facility -- which once had 264 beds -- was transferred to another long-term care center in the early afternoon. Twenty-three employees will remain at Foley through July to finish bookkeeping, cleanup and archiving medical records, officials said.

Bellone, who had set a June 30 deadline for closure, will return the county's nursing home operating license to the state Friday. He has said operating Foley cost $1 million a month at a time when Suffolk faces a projected $250 million budget deficit.

"No one's happy with the result," said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider. "What we're pleased about is that closure process went smoothly."

Advocates for keeping Foley in county hands accused Bellone of inflating cost figures, saying he could have run the facility without losses if he had found efficiencies and filled empty beds. They expressed regret that the county would no longer offer a respite for residents whose conditions made it difficult for them to obtain care from other nursing homes.

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), who filed a lawsuit to block Bellone's $23 million sale of Foley to private operators, said the administration shouldn't celebrate the closure.

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"I see it as an abject failure of county governance," Kennedy said. "I certainly wouldn't be doing cartwheels over shipping out the sick, ill and infirm."

Bellone reached a deal to sell Foley to Israel and Samuel Sherman last July. The legislature approved the sale, but the lawsuit -- which said Bellone didn't follow proper procedure -- halted the process.

Leaders for the union representing nursing home workers later reached an agreement with the Shermans to guarantee staff their jobs for 18 months in exchange for dropping the suit and allowing a lease. But employees overwhelmingly rejected the proposal in April, prompting Bellone to move forward with the closure.

County lawmakers earlier this week authorized real estate officials to begin marketing the 175,000-square-foot Foley building and its surrounding 14 acres for possible sale.

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