Indeed, when the legislature approved a bipartisan measure to spend more than $33 million ($54 million today, adjusted for inflation, according to the Suffolk Budget Review Office) building a new facility in 1991, Levy, then a Democratic legislator, voted against it. Foley said his dad had told him and his sisters that he only “wanted his name to be continually associated with outstanding public health care as opposed to a privatized scheme that would diminish the level of care and service to those the facility is supposed to protect.”
Levy, who became a Republican in 2010, isn’t the first county executive to have the nursing home in his sights. Pat Halpin, a Democrat, had tried do the same in 1989.
Haplin tells the Press he wanted to sell it to a not-for-profit. The county was losing about $10 million a year, and the old WPA facility had been cited by the state Department of Health for “numerous violations.” He believes that “government does have a role but it’s not the role of county government…. The threshold question is: Can these services be provided by someone other than Suffolk County? And the answer is yes.”
Halpin, who’s disagreed with Levy over the years, says, “I have to give him credit for his determination to see this through given all of the other county obligations that only the county can provide.”
But a philosophical difference in the role of government runs deep.
“People in the private world think that Foley is overstaffed,” says Sabatino, “and health-care advocates think private facilities are understaffed. The guys in the private sector are going to provide you with the bare minimum. The county’s Foley facility provided you with what it took to get the job done.”
Another distinction, Sabatino notes, is that there’s more oversight with the county-operated facility.
“There’s always the fear that the politicians are going to hold hearings,” Sabatino tells the Press. “But you don’t get that with a private facility.”
Kenneth Rozenberg, the nursing home mogul, tried to dispel any concerns that the Suffolk legislators might have had about the sale when he appeared before the legislature last June.
“We are very proud of our record of high-quality patient care, as well as high staff morale. We consider ourselves on the cutting edge of providing for our residents,” Rozenberg told the legislators. “We look at the needs of the community, speak to the surrounding hospitals, and develop a plan of success for each facility. No two facilities are the same, and therefore, no two facilities are treated the same.”