June 23, 2018
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Calais nursing home to shut down on July 6

By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — The Portland-based firm that owns the only licensed nursing home in Calais has announced that the Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center will close on Friday, July 6.

Closure seemed inevitable to residents of the 52-bed facility and their families after Portland-based First Atlantic Healthcare twice received permission from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to shut it down.

Mothballing the facility is costing 92 workers their jobs and has left families scrambling to find new placements amid a chronic shortage of nursing homes throughout Washington County.

Calais City Manager Diane Barnes said Tuesday there are no meetings scheduled with First Atlantic to discuss the costs and benefits of a transfer of ownership to the city that might allow the facility to remain operational.

First Atlantic Healthcare CEO Kenneth Bowden has suggested the city consider buying and running the facility. State reimbursement rates for nonprofit entities that operate nursing homes are higher than rates for private-sector firms like his, Bowden said at a public hearing held in response to the city appealing the state’s approval of shutting down the facility.

At that same hearing, Bowden said the facility would remain operational until all residents had pinned down new placements.

“If we get to the point where closure is necessary, we will stay open until appropriate placements have been found for those involved,” Bowden said during the April 5 hearing at the Washington County Community College.

How that promise squares with the announcement that the doors will be locked on July 6 remains unclear. Multiple calls on Tuesday to Bowden’s office in Portland were not returned.

In its short press statement announcing the July 6 closure date, First Atlantic cited a “dramatic decline in census” and “recently recorded operating deficits” as the reasons for closure.

That press statement also said the facility’s management is “helping families with placement in other area nursing facilities.” The statement says management is “planning to assist employees by maintaining an open positions listing throughout the closure process,” which would make those who lose their jobs aware of openings at other First Atlantic facilities.

Traci Place, a business agent with Teamsters Local 340, said Tuesday her union represents about half of the 92 workers who are losing their jobs.

“It’s been a mixed bag of responses,” Place said. “A number of people found positions elsewhere, either at the local hospital or at the [nursing home] facility in Eastport. Some have decided to go back to school.

“In general, jobs are few and far between and are not in the area. While it’s not impossible to find a new job, it’s very difficult.”

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