Continued uncertainty is the prognosis for patients at the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank, which Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has wanted to shut down after his efforts to sell the 264-bed complex failed last year.
Four plaintiffs—three nursing home patients and one employee—have sued the county to keep the public nursing home open. And four times they’ve won, their latest victory round coming Tuesday when the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division reinstated the temporary order to stop Levy from closing the nursing home. The county is expected to file its appeal to the latest decision on Friday to renew its efforts to shut it down.
The appellate division ruling prohibits the county executive from “taking any action to close the facility or terminating nursing services at that facility.”
The facility is funded by the county through the end of March. The county began issuing layoff notices last week to 16 of the 242 workers, which reportedly included cooks and house-cleaning service personnel, after State Supreme Court Justice Paul L. Baisley Jr. rejected a request from the plaintiffs for a temporary restraining order.
“Two minutes after Baisley lifted the injunction,” says Paul Sabatino, counsel for the plaintiffs, “they did this mad rush to try to close the facility in four days. They knew we were going to go to the appellate division. What’s the trouble in waiting? They tried to disrupt the whole place! A couple of social workers declined to process the paperwork because they said they didn’t want to put the patients through the anxiety of all this stress if this matter were still pending in court.”
Sabatino expects the full appellate panel to rule on this matter within the next two weeks.
According to Levy aides, the county hasn’t allowed new nursing home admissions and has written families of the residents currently at the Foley home that the county does intend to shut the place down. The county executive has said closing the facility will save Suffolk taxpayers millions of dollars over the next several years without endangering the health of the current residents who would be relocated to other county facilities.
At the beginning of this month, the Suffolk Legislature by a 11-5 vote joined the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.
A Suffolk legislator who didn’t want to be named told the Press that the county executive is “trying to close it down before he can move the residents out! And maybe he’s doing this to convince the families to move the residents out sooner rather than later.”