Study shows few local options for Calais nursing home residents

Posted Feb. 14, 2012, at 4:53 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 14, 2012, at 5:54 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — The 32 residents of the Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center facility in Calais who are facing displacement have very few options for local relocation, a study by the city of Calais shows.

The 50-bed Washington County nursing home and assisted living facility faces closure under a business plan by its owner, Portland-based First Atlantic Healthcare. That news caught residents, staff and their families by surprise.

First Atlantic planned to close the facility March 1, but backed off from that date after a three-hour meeting with Washington County’s political delegation, which is eager to find a way to keep the 39-year-old facility open. Maine State Senate President Kevin Raye, who lives in Washington County, has been orchestrating discussions with city officials and others about strategies for keeping the nursing home and assisted living facility up and running, even if First Atlantic bails.

First Atlantic CEO Kenneth Bowden said Tuesday he is eager to find a way to keep the facility’s doors open, but said that goal is being undermined by residents moving out in recent weeks. Given the cloud of uncertainty that looms over the facility, some residents have already made alternative living arrangements and have relocated.

“We haven’t announced closure, and I hope we won’t,” Bowden said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “We are trying to find a financially viable path forward. But, in the past two weeks, we’ve lost 35 percent of our revenue, which has added to the financial pressure.

“It’s real challenging to find a way to keep the doors open, given the financial environment. The community and our company face the same problem: trying to find a solution for a financially viable facility as we move forward.”

Residents who remain at the facility face an uncertain future. In a letter of appeal of First Atlantic’s plan to close the facility, Calais Mayor Joseph Cassidy told state officials that there are very few nursing home placement options within Washington County.

“It is unlikely that all of the residents from the Calais facility could even be placed in Washington County or neighboring county facilities,” his letter to Mary Mayhew, the state commissioner of Health and Human Services, reads in part. Cassidy says a Feb. 2 phone survey showed there were 18 beds available collectively in Ellsworth, Houlton, Jonesboro, Lincoln, Lubec and Milbridge. Other regional facilities polled are not only filled, the survey shows, but have waiting lists.

Cassidy’s letter also stresses the distance between Calais and what few nursing home beds are available elsewhere. It includes an analysis of one-way drive times from Calais to other regional nursing homes, which range from 2 hours, 36 minutes to the Mountain Heights facility in Patten to 40 minutes to Eastport.

Cassidy notes that drive times would be affected by where families live. The remaining 32 residents at the Calais facility are from Baileyville, Calais, Pembroke, Princeton, Robbinston and Topsfield.

Should the Calais facility be closed, 92 staff members will lose their jobs, including 50 nursing staff represented by Teamsters Local 340. The union and First Atlantic plan to meet later this week to discuss the situation. Bowden said the current contract with the Teamsters bargaining unit expires within a few months.

Mayhew has 30 days to determine if a reconsideration hearing is warranted. If there is such a hearing, it would have to happen within 60 days of her determination.

Bowden said First Atlantic plans to break ground this spring on an expansion of its nursing home in Ellsworth. That project would add beds to the company’s Colliers Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Ellsworth. Ground has yet to be broken on the expansion of the Ellsworth facility, which is estimated to cost $8.5 million. Bowden said Tuesday that could happen this summer, with a completion timeline of two years.

The expansion in Ellsworth will include 16 nursing facility beds, 30 residential care level IV beds and 10 assisted living apartments.

First Atlantic also wants to build a new facility in Bucksport of a similar size and scope of services to the expanded Collier’s facility in Ellsworth.

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