Possible Foley closure worries residents

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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Several residents of Suffolk County's John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Center said they were concerned about their future health care options Wednesday, a day after a critical vote aimed at privatizing the center was canceled and the county moved ahead with plans to close the center.

"Basically they're throwing us out like fish," said resident Joann Pesola, 46, who has lived at the facility for the past 31/2 years after a spinal chord injury left her paralyzed.

Pesola, who was previously treated at other facilities, said the center in Yaphank was "one of the cleanest" and she feared a downgrade in the level of care if the facility were to be privately run or if she had to move elsewhere for affordable care.

The 180 Foley employees belonging to the Association of Municipal Employees union were scheduled to vote Tuesday on a plan to drop a lawsuit against Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to stop the $23-million sale of the facility to private operators Israel and Samuel Sherman. In exchange, the Shermans would lease the facility and guarantee the employees their positions and benefits for 18 months.

Union leaders say they canceled the vote after Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) and Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) -- also part of the lawsuit -- failed to sign a contract before the vote agreeing to drop out of the lawsuit.

But the legislators said they told union leaders their decision to drop out of the lawsuit was pegged to the outcome of the vote.

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Union president Dan Farrell said Wednesday there were no plans to reschedule the vote.

"We're in limbo. . . . I fear they are moving ahead with the closure," Farrell said.

Bellone spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said there was no update Wednesday on reviving the deal, but that the county hoped the deal would go through.

"The patients have always been our concern," Baird-Streeter said. "That's why we tried to work out a deal to keep all of the patients and all of the workers there."

Terry Kelly, 52, who has lived at the facility for the past two years after suffering a stroke, said all of his relatives were deceased and he worried about where he would end up if the facility closed.

"As long as I stay here, I'll be all right," Kelly said.

Donna Nesbitt, 42, a legally blind resident who was placed at the facility when superstorm Sandy ravaged her Mastic Beach home, said many residents were also worried about the future of the staff.

"I've been to other places where the staff is not so great; here they really care about the residents," Nesbitt said.

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