June 24, 2018
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DHHS commissioner: Hearing to be held on closure of Calais nursing home

By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — A decision by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to authorize closure of the 50-bed Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Calais is being revisited, offering residents, their families and the facility’s staff new hope that relocation and loss of jobs can be avoided.

This morning DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew told Maine State President Kevin Raye, a Washington County Republican who remains immersed in efforts to keep Calais’ only nursing home up and running, that a public hearing would be held on the matter, most likely within the next 30 days.

“It’s been my position and that of others affected by this that loss of a nursing home in Calais is not acceptable,” Raye told the Bangor Daily News Tuesday after speaking with Mayhew by phone. “Throughout this process we’ve been looking at all the options. Now it appears there may be [U.S. Department of Agriculture] Rural Development loan money that could help pave the way for a replacement facility.”

With the help of such a grant, Raye said, a new nursing home could be built on property adjacent to the existing Washington Place assisted living center in Calais, allowing the two facilities to be physically attached.

Mayhew’s decision to reconsider plans by Portland-based First Atlantic Healthcare to close the 39-year-old facility comes in the wake of a letter of appeal she received in February for Calais Mayor Joseph Cassidy. In that letter Cassidy notes that, should the Calais nursing home be closed, there are very few other nursing home options in Washington County.

Closing the facility would also put 92 health care workers and support staff out of work.

Among the options now under consideration is the City of Calais buying the facility from First Atlantic. That approach was suggested in a Feb. 6 letter sent to the city from First Atlantic CEO Kenneth Bowden, who said his firm is losing $81,000 a month in keeping the nursing home open, a fiscal reality that he termed “unacceptable.”

Bowden says in his letter that a publicly owned facility would qualify for higher MaineCare reimbursement rates for services provided to residents than are now being paid to First Atlantic.

Calais City Manager Diane Barnes has said no decision on Bowden’s proposal has been made, as those involved were awaiting Mayhew’s reaction to Cassid-y’s letter of appeal.

Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. Loan money, not grant money, may help pave the way for a replacement facility, and the letter of appeal to Mary Mayhew was written by Calais Mayor Joseph Cassidy.

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