People gather at the Foley nursing home to hold a...

People gather at the Foley nursing home to hold a "peaceful" rally on Saturday in Yaphank. (April 13, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Sitting in a wheelchair on Glover Drive in Yaphank Saturday, Louise Bongiorno gripped a poster that read "Save John J. Foley Nursing Facility" and chanted "fill those beds."

Bongiorno, a resident of the beleaguered nursing home, joined about 100 supporters at a rally in front of the facility to demand that Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone keep it open.

"At my age -- I'm 71 -- they want to displace me," said Bongiorno, who has lived at the home for three years. "Where am I going to live?"

County leaders have proposed leasing the 246-bed facility to private operators because Suffolk can no longer afford to run the nursing home, which costs as much as $1 million a month, they said.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the leasing deal would preserve the 180 employees' jobs for 18 months, and keep patients at the home.

He said that it was disingenuous of rally organizers to suggest residents would be kicked out if the county does not continue to operate the home.

"Rather than scaring folks, what they ought to do is consider the reality of the situation," Schneider said. "Let's keep folks in the beds, keep jobs, and provide serious relief for Suffolk County taxpayers."

On Tuesday, the president of Foley's employee union canceled a scheduled vote on a deal to drop a lawsuit against Bellone that was aimed at blocking the $23 million sale of the facility to private operators Israel and Samuel Sherman.

Bellone has said that the facility would have to be closed if it could not be sold or leased.

Organizer Perri White questioned why the county couldn't run the nursing home profitably.

Legis. Kate M. Browning (WF-Shirley) told the rally that Bellone only thinks of two options: turn the facility over to private operators or close it. "You have another choice -- run it," she told cheering supporters.

Foley employee Nancy Dallaire, who works in food service, said she was worried about her job as well as the fate of residents. "Everybody says it's a skilled nursing facility, but it's a community," the Ronkonkoma resident said.

And resident David Parrish, who has the developmental disorder spina bifida, said that Foley was special. "This is our home," he said. "We are family and we will be torn apart."

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