CALAIS, Maine — The controversial decision by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to authorize the closure of the 50-bed Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Calais will be the topic of a public hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, April 5, at Washington County Community College in Calais.
DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew recently agreed to revisit the decision made last fall that would allow the facility’s owner, Portland-based First Atlantic Healthcare, to close it. Closure would displace a dwindling resident population and would cost 92 workers their jobs.
Although the certificate of need approval was granted last October, staff, residents and residents’ families didn’t learn of the closure plans until January. Faced with an uncertain future, some residents have moved out, although finding new skilled-care accommodations within Washington County has proved to be problematic.
As of late last week the resident head count at the facility was down to 27, prompting First Atlantic to lay off 15 staffers and to reduce hours for other employees.
Mayhew’s decision to reconsider the proposal to close the 39-year-old facility comes on the heels of a letter of appeal she received in February from 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.
Among the options now under consideration is the city of Calais buying the facility from First Atlantic. That approach was suggested in a letter sent to the city from First Atlantic CEO Kenneth Bowden, who said in early February that his firm is losing $81,000 a month in keeping the nursing home open, a situation 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 now are being paid to First Atlantic.
Calais City Manager Diane Barnes said no decision on Bowden’s proposal has been made and likely won’t be until after the April 5 public hearing.