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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Suffolk lawmakers clash over health-center fate

Several Suffolk County legislators got into a verbal battle Tuesday during a debate about privatizing the eighth and final county health center.

Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport) said he supported turning operation of the Riverhead clinic over to the nonprofit Hudson River HealthCare, based in Peekskill. He said he believed a no-layoff clause would protect the 46 county workers employed there.

Leg. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) responded, "That's a lame excuse."

"I don't think you care," said Browning, who caucuses with Democrats. "Stop doing blanket statements about what we're doing and why we should do it."

Spencer shot back, "You don't hold the corner on concern for county workers. I'm not going to get into a back and forth with you on the record. But how dare you? How dare you?"

"How dare me?" Browning retorted. "Because I talk to them more than you ever will."

Spencer said, "You can be sanctimonious if you like."

Browning noted that about 180 county employees were laid off in 2013 when the county's John J. Foley Nursing Home closed. Spencer supported the closing of the Yaphank nursing home, while Browning led opposition to Bellone and the plan to sell it.

She said the no-layoff clause in county workeras most recent contract expires at the end of 2016. She worried county workers at the Riverhead health clinic could be laid off then.

Browning said she has received insufficient information from Suffolk Health Commissioner James Tomarken about where county employees at the Riverhead Health Center will end up. She opposes the proposal to privatize the clinic.

Bellone has pushed privatization of all eight health centers since taking office in 2012.
The Bellone administration estimates that privatization will save $11 million over five years. The administration has promised all 46 employees at the Riverhead health clinic will get other county jobs at the same title and pay.

The Legislature on Tuesday scheduled public hearings for June 17 in Hauppauge and June 18 in Riverhead on the Riverhead proposal.


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