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Suffolk aims to privatize 2 health clinics

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announces the arrest

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announces the arrest of eight suspected sex offenders. (May. 23, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

A Suffolk committee Thursday sent to the county legislature a bill to privatize two more county health clinics.

Health committee members discharged a bill that would turn over operations of the East Hampton and Southampton clinics to Hudson River Healthcare, a Peekskill nonprofit that also runs the former county health center in Coram. The committee made no recommendation to the legislature.

Using $2.2 million in state grant funding, Suffolk wants to build a new, consolidated facility at Southampton Hospital.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone says the privatization will save the county, which faces a $250 million budget deficit through 2014, $3.8 million over five years while adding dental and mental health services for patients. Legislative budget analysts project $5.3 million in savings.

Officials said the 16 county employees at the East Hampton and Southampton clinics would be moved to other county public health facilities.

"I will do everything possible to avoid one more employee being laid off," said Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), health committee chairman. "But we do have to make changes going forward if we are going to adapt to the new landscape that is out there."

Opponents of the plan say a private operator will cut services that they are not mandated to provide. They also have criticized Bellone for using a waiver to avoid the open bidding process and deal exclusively with Hudson River.

The firm is also in negotiations to take over another two of the county's 10 health clinics.

//PLS RESTORE GRAPH for web//js// Bellone has said he hopes to get the county out of the business of directly providing health services, citing a continued drop in state reimbursement. He is closing Suffolk's John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility and also wants to privatize methadone clinics.The full legislature will vote on the East End privatization at a meeting Tuesday, and Democratic leaders have predicted passage.Also Thursday:

The public safety committee approved a bill requiring Suffolk police to notify lawmakers whenever the ranks of emergency dispatchers drop below 10 percent of budgeted positions. The bill, sponsored by Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) and Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), follows complaints by dispatchers that 20 percent of positions are unfilled and they must work mandated 12-hour shifts with little time for breaks.

Also, the government operations committee approved a bill to give District Attorney Thomas Spota the authority to withhold "step" pay raises to his 180 prosecutors. Currently, all nonunion county workers -- including political appointees and assistant district attorneys -- automatically receive step increases of roughly 2 to 4 percent each July.

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