Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has taken his first formal step toward shuttering the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank -- even as he continues trying to salvage its stalled privatization.
The administration Monday filed the required nursing home closure plan with the New York State Department of Health, according to a high-level county source. The document, which outlines how Suffolk would meet state requirements to terminate employees and transfer patients, could take more than a month to be considered for approval.
Health Department spokesman Peter Constantakes said the state hadn't received the closure plan by early evening.
If approved by state health officials, closing the 264-bed facility could take 60 to 90 days. But in the meantime, Bellone remains in talks with Suffolk's Association of Municipal Employees, which represents Foley's roughly 200 workers, for the "common ground" compromise he has pitched to keep the doors open.
Bellone, in his state of the county address late last month, threatened the nursing home's closure in light of roadblocks to the $23 million sale he negotiated last year with private operators Israel and Samuel Sherman. Sale opponents filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court and Brookhaven's zoning board of appeals denied a special permit the county needed to transfer facility operations.
One compromise, Bellone has said, would be leasing, rather than selling, Foley to the Shermans -- allowing employees and patients to stay put, and ending the county's $1 million monthly subsidy to run the nursing home. The administration has blamed that cost for increasing an already roughly $80 million to $100 million budget deficit projected for this year.
Union leaders couldn't be reached for comment.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider reiterated that the administration views the situation as urgent. "We simply cannot allow these kinds of losses to continue," Schneider said of the facility's monthly costs.Legislative Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) said the closure plan filing confirms that Bellone has always been serious in his efforts to end the years-long fight over Foley, which prior administrations also tried to sell or close in the face of strong resistance.
"This shows he's still on course," Horsley said.
Minority Leader John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), a sale opponent, said he was disappointed that Bellone has turned the nursing home into a scapegoat for Suffolk's fiscal woes.
"He just seems hell bent," Kennedy said of Bellone's plans. "It's gone from an issue of prudent management to 'it's my way or the highway.'