Moving speedily after a court ruling, aides to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy on Friday told the first of 242 workers at the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility that they will be laid off as of Sunday and the others could start to go as soon as March 6.
At the same time, Levy aides say the county has stopped new nursing home admissions and sent letters to residents' families telling them the closure of the 264-bed complex in Yaphank is "being phased in starting immediately." Despite the court battle, Levy aides said the intent is still to shutter Foley by March 31.
"This letter will serve as an official notification that your position is scheduled to be abolished," said Jeffrey Tempera, director of labor relations in letters that were hand-delivered to workers on the job. Mark Smith, a Levy spokesman, said the first jobs axed do not affect direct nursing care but only support services.
Letters about the first layoffs went to 16 employees whose jobs will end Sunday. Three of the nursing home workers, however, have the right to move into other jobs in the Health Department under the county's "bump and retreat" system. Two of the three will take jobs that are now vacant, and a third will displace a less senior worker in the Health Department who also got a letter and will be laid off.
Other layoff letters went to the rest of Foley's employees telling them that their layoff date has been moved back to March 6. Smith could not say how many will be laid off on that date. Staff reductions will be done according to seniority and be based on the number of workers needed as the number of patients decline, Smith said.
Kevin Carey, the nursing home's administrator, also sent out a letter to families of residents' informing them of meetings on Feb. 23, 25 and 27. Smith said there is a "glut of beds" at other nursing homes, but could not say how many or their location.
The Levy administration's action came a day after a State Supreme Court judge denied shutdown foes a preliminary injunction to block the closing. Their attorneys said they will appeal.
"Levy is playing with the lives of the residents," said Anton Borovina, the foes' lawyer. Smith countered: "It's very clear to us we will win on the merits."