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Amityville county-run health center to be privatized

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Jan. 23,

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Jan. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Amityville's county-run Maxine Postal Tri-Community Health Center will be privatized under a bill approved by the Suffolk County Legislature.

Lawmakers voted 16-1, with one abstention, last Tuesday to turn operation of the center over to Hudson River HealthCare, a Peekskill nonprofit that already runs two former Suffolk County health centers.

Officials hope the move, part of a push to privatize all eight county health centers, will lower costs for both the county and the facility's 12,500 patients.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the handover, tentatively scheduled for June 15, will save the county $4.5 million over five years. "The agreement will bolster federal benefits and state aid payments, provide federal coverage for malpractice cases and give the health center access to federal programs," he said in a release.

Services will also expand to include mental health and dental care while lowering patients' copays, said legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). In recent years those had risen to as much as $75; under HRHCare, officials said, they are expected to drop to between $15 and $35.

The county will contribute about $7.9 million over five years to defray some costs, Gregory said.

The county's 2013 contract with the Association of Municipal Employees, the county's largest union, includes a no-layoff provision through 2016 that will preserve the jobs of about 33 employees working at the facility.

Some will go to the medical unit at the county jail as it transitions into full-time operations, Gregory said, and some custodial employees can be transferred to the Department of Public Works.

The county is also working to transfer its Riverhead health center to HRHCare. Gregory said that should be finished by September. Some 40 employees there will remain with the county, a Suffolk spokeswoman said.

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