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Editorial: Foley employees should vote to go to private operator

John J. Foley Nursing home in Yaphank. (April

John J. Foley Nursing home in Yaphank. (April 9, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

After years of wrangling, the battle over the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility now seems to have turned upside down and inside out. Some patients and their families, committed to making sure the sick and elderly at Foley can stay, are pursuing a course of action that could throw these residents out. Some employees, fearing they may lose their jobs, are pursuing a course of action that could cost them their jobs. They're doing so because they're being misled.

On Friday, the 180 Foley workers who belong to the Association of Municipal Employees are scheduled to vote on a deal that would end their lawsuit to block privatization and allow Suffolk County to lease the facility to for-profit operators. The smart move is to approve the deal. If they don't, County Executive Steve Bellone says the facility will close and the patients and employees will be out.

The county faces huge budget deficits. Foley costs the county $1 million per month. And Bellone has the power to close it. The county has begun moving patients out of the facility after a deal to sell it faltered.

Closing the home would effectively end any possibility of getting significant money for it. Progress toward privatization would keep the door open to the county eventually receiving the $23 million it had agreed to sell Foley for, before lawsuits gummed up the deal.

Union leaders, who support the deal, canceled a vote last week, uncertain that they had enough support. The votes haven't been forthcoming because two county legislators, Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) and John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), have continued to push the idea that Foley can stay county-owned, and open. We don't see how.

If the union approves the deal, employees have been promised their jobs for at least 18 months and residents can stay indefinitely. If it does not, it closes. That shouldn't be allowed. To prevent it, Browning and Kennedy should end their fight and support the privatization.