The first patients were moved Thursday from Suffolk's John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility as part of County Executive Steve Bellone's push to close the nursing home later this spring.
Three of the Yaphank home's 195 patients were moved to other long-term care centers in Suffolk. Officials said the transfers would continue unless opponents to the facility's stalled $23 million sale reconsider their position.
The relocations came as the union for Foley employees continued to spar with Bellone over the home's fate.
The Association of Municipal Employees says Bellone has dismissed alternatives to closure or the sale.
"It's been one-sided -- more ultimatum than negotiation," AME president Dan Farrell said of meetings with Bellone's top aides.
Bellone has state approval for a plan to close Foley, and on Wednesday sent layoff notices to 180 employees.
"The bottom line is we're presently on a closure track unless everyone came together and supported the sale that was voted on by a majority of the Suffolk County Legislature," said Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider. "Everyone knows we'd prefer the sale, but we're not going to keep losing $1 million a month" in subsidies to run the home.
Farrell said the union isn't willing to drop its lawsuit against the sale. The union says Suffolk bypassed competitive bidding rules in agreeing to sell the home to Israel and Samuel Sherman. "We still feel strongly about the lawsuit, and if they're not willing to work with us, then we'll litigate this to the hilt and fight to the end," Farrell said.
Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), another plaintiff in the suit, wrote Bellone this week asking him to slow the closure effort. Browning wants the administration to meet with a company that says it can determine how to make the nursing home profitable under county ownership.
"There shouldn't be a point of no return," Browning said. "There's still time."
Schneider said the administration has "heard it all" when it comes to suggestions for keeping the facility public. "Everyone knows the way to keep this open, keep the patients in their beds and get $23 million for the county: that's to allow the sale," he said.