Recent attacks on the public sector blame the front-line levels of our government's workforce as the budgetary culprit. Unfortunately, those same voices seem to forget the responsible role of management. With the right management in place, the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees always believed the county's John J. Foley Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility could have sustained itself to the point of making a profit for the county and its tax rolls.
Throughout the union's fight over maintaining the only county-owned facility in which nursing care and rehabilitation services are provided for its taxpayers, we don't believe that the county executive or the Suffolk County Legislature ever took the necessary steps to secure adequate financial audits. With special regard to the issue of proper Medicaid reimbursement, the results of such audits would have proved what we have believed all along: that the facility was deliberately left to be woefully mismanaged, when it could have been profitable.
The employees became increasingly demoralized as they read the press, attended legislative public hearings, and were required to work longer hours with more responsibility because the facility's staffing was reduced over the last two years.
The union did an enormous amount of applicable research on the facility. We paid private financial analysts to decipher the hundreds of pages of county budgets and statistics. We pointed out where changes could be made. We pointed out errors. We pointed out how revenue was being lost due to improper administrative record-keeping.
We helped make it possible for our own county health insurance plan to be accepted by the facility, as well as the federal government's Tricare plan that covered rehabilitation for our injured veterans. But with the continual bad publicity, prospective patients were apprehensive about seeking treatment.
At the eleventh hour on Dec. 7, the legislature voted for neither the sale nor the closure. The status of limbo is back, and layoff notices went out the next day.
The time has come for the legislature and the county executive to reach a resolve that will provide the remaining workers at the facility, together with all of its disabled residents, with a clear direction as to what their futures hold.
Cheryl A. Felice
Editor's note: The writer is the president of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees.