The New York State Health Department on Monday approved Suffolk County's closing plan for the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank, and Bellone administration officials, frustrated by union opposition to the home's sale, say they will move to implement a shutdown.
The county received an email letter from Deputy Health Commissioner Karen Westervelt approving the closure plan, saying it "satisfactorily meets" requirements that "assures appropriate care will be given residents . . . and ensures appropriate transfer of residents." Once all residents are moved, she said the county must relinquish its operating license.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said administration officials will stop new admissions "within a matter of days" and begin meeting Tuesday with CMS Compliance Group, consultants based in Melville, that have a $205,000 contract to oversee the shutdown.
"We are now moving forward on a closure track," said Schneider. "If obstacles to a sale or a long-term lease are removed, we may be able to stop going down this path . . . but whether the facility closes is out of our hands. It's up to the union."
The Association of Municipal Employees has filed a lawsuit to block the closure, claiming Bellone and aides failed to follow proper procedures in conducting a proposed sale of the home and getting approval from the county legislature.
"It's just one more illegal act," said Paul Sabatino, the union's attorney in the lawsuit. "The county executive can't unilaterally file a closure plan. ."
Schneider said the county executive prefers the $23 million sale to private operators Israel and Samuel Sherman because it could keep Foley open and keep people in their jobs, but nothing can happen unless the union drops its lawsuit. "We are not going to let county residents lose $1 million a month," he said.
Only last week, however, the administration's own cash flow projections showed that the shutdown will take until September to complete. But Schneider said consultants say they can complete the closure in two months.
Bellone aides said Foley currently has 202 residents and a staff of about 180, plus per per diem workers. Schneider said a letter will go out to residents, their families and staff, as well as other nursing homes in the area, to determine the availability of beds. As of Feb. 7, Schneider said, a state health department survey showed 477 open beds at other local nursing homes.
He added the consultants -- which will have five to 10 staffers, including social workers and nurses -- will survey residents on their relocation preferences and needs.