Teamsters, owners to discuss proposal to close Calais nursing home

Posted Feb. 01, 2012, at 12:17 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Representatives of the labor union that represents nursing care employees at the Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Calais will meet Thursday in Bangor with management of the facility to discuss a proposal to close the 52-bed nursing home.

Teamsters Local 340 represents about 50 licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants who staff the facility, meeting the needs of 42 residents. Those union members are among 92 workers who would lose their jobs if the 39-year-old nursing home is closed.

Traci Place, the Teamsters business agent who works with the Calais bargaining unit, said the union was “not aware” until recently of plans to close the facility. She declined further comment until after the union’s meeting with officials from Portland-based First Atlantic Healthcare, which owns and operates the Calais facility.

First Atlantic Healthcare said last week that closure is not “imminent,” but the facility stopped accepting applications from prospective residents weeks ago. The prospect of closure has left current residents and their families eager for specifics, and some residents have already made alternative living arrangements given the cloud of uncertainty that looms over the facility.

Stacy Wescott of Calais was busy Wednesday moving her mother from the Calais facility, where she has lived for the past three years, to a nursing home in Machias, a distance of 44 miles. She is hopeful the facility will be kept open so her mother can return.

“We were blindsided by this, which we learned about from a document found on the Internet,” Wescott said. “I was upset and disappointed, and my mother was very upset. She cried all day. It’s been hard. Everyone is trying to be hopeful that something can be done and that she and others who have moved will be able to come back. Moving her now is a safety net, and I was able to get the last available bed in the facility in Machias where we’re moving her.”

Among the documents accessible on the Internet is a letter sent to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services last spring by First Atlantic Healthcare. That letter outlines the company’s plans to close the Calais facility and to enlarge the Collier’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center that it owns in Ellsworth.

In that letter, CEO Kenneth Bowden stated, “There is capacity within the Calais region to accommodate these patients as our [nursing facility] operations in Calais phase out.” Bowden also said that residents now living in the Calais facility, if they desired, could be relocated to the Ellsworth facility 92 miles away.

Bowden’s letter said expansion of the Ellsworth facility would require 16 months of construction. In November state officials recommended approval of Atlantic Healthcare’s certificate of need proposal, showing a construction cost estimate for the Ellsworth project of $9.2 million.

The replacement facility in Ellsworth, the company said, will include 16 nursing facility beds, 30 residential care-level IV beds and 10 assisted living apartments.

Construction on the project in Ellsworth has not yet started.

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