CALAIS, Maine — A stack of petitions bearing the names and signatures of as many as 1,800 people will be delivered Friday to the office of Gov. Paul LePage in an effort to preclude the proposed closure of the Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, which is the only licensed nursing home in Calais.
The petitions bearing the simple message “Keep our nursing home in Calais” have been circulating throughout Washington County and beyond for weeks. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services last fall approved a certificate of need application made by the facility’s owner, Portland-based First Atlantic Healthcare, that calls for closure of the 39-year-old nursing home and construction of a new facility 90 miles away in Ellsworth.
That decision came to light locally in January, prompting concern about what would become of the residents of the 52-bed facility, given a chronic shortage of licensed skilled care beds in Washington County. Closure also would leave 92 staff unemployed.
An April 5 public hearing in Calais drew more than 100 people opposed to the state’s certificate of need approval. DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew is now reviewing that approval. According to the governor’s office, she has until June 6 to decide whether it should stand.
First Atlantic CEO Kenneth Bowden testified in April that his firm saw Atlantic Rehab expenses exceed revenues during 2011 by $272,000. In the first two months of this year, he said, the facility was $131,000 in the red, due in part to a dwindling resident census prompted by fears of closure.
Bowden said he’s eager to meet with Calais city officials about assuming ownership of the facility, claiming that reimbursement rates for nursing homes that are publicly owned are significantly higher than the rates of reimbursement for which private-sector owners are eligible. Consequently, he predicts the city could operate the facility without a deficit.
State Rep. Joyce Maker, R-Calais, will deliver the petitions to the governor’s office at 10 a.m. She said Thursday she expects that she will be joined by other members of the Washington County legislative delegation.
“Closing this facility would be really, really devastating to this area,” she said Thursday. “Even though the population of Washington County is going down, it’s the young people who are leaving, not the seniors. I see those seniors and think, ‘Hey, that’s me in a few years.’”