Suffolk County needs to get out of the nursing home business. The best way for it to do that is for the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility to be sold at a significant price to a private buyer.
That's the outcome the taxpayers need, because the Yaphank facility is losing $10 million per year. Closing the deal would put the $23-million purchase price into the county coffers, and put the facility back on the tax rolls, a positive outcome for Brookhaven and the local school district.
It's also the best outcome for the home's patients. Many have special needs, and the prospective buyer has agreed to continue serving all of them.
So the news this week that the Brookhaven Zoning Board of Appeals refused to grant a special permission necessary to allow the sale to proceed is regrettable. The fact that it did so unanimously, without debate and without any explanation, is alarming.
Along with the Brookhaven zoning issue, a lawsuit to stop the sale is ongoing, led by two Foley residents, two county commissioners, and the Association of Municipal Employees, which represents nursing home workers. At issue is a variety of hoops the plaintiffs say the county failed to jump through in setting up the sale.
The union wants to guarantee the safety of union jobs by keeping Foley in the county's hands. Political pressure to get the sale stopped has been brought to bear by other private nursing home operators who wish they'd made a deal for Foley.
If there are legal niceties in the sale process that haven't been met, the county needs to meet them. But one way or another, there will come a day when Suffolk doesn't operate Foley. It would be deplorable if the home is shut down because self-interested parties blocked a deal that could have put money in the county, town and school district's accounts, provided jobs and allowed high-needs patients to stay in a facility that has and could continue to care for them. And those who caused it would have plenty to answer for.