Calais looking for means to restore needed nursing home care

Posted Dec. 17, 2012, at 6:34 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Calais community leaders and officials of Calais Regional Hospital are seeking a $50,000 federal grant to help determine the feasibility of restoring skilled nursing home care to the community.

Portland-based First Atlantic Heathcare shut down its 52-bed Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Calais in June, leaving residents and their families scrambling to find alternative placements. The closure of the community’s only nursing home also left 92 health care workers jobless.

Ever since, the community has been mulling over strategies for reviving skilled nursing home care in Calais, as some families have been forced to relocate loved ones needing 24/7 care to facilities that are hours away.

“It’s so sad the number of people whose lives have been disrupted by this,” said Kevin Raye of Perry, a former state senator who has been immersed for months in trying to resolve the problem. “The need is clearly there, and I’m encouraged that people are exploring options and seeing what’s feasible. We’re looking at public ownership or the hospital owning the facility. We’re exploring options and seeing what’s feasible.”

Calais City Manager Diane Barnes said Monday that a task force has been organized to explore strategies for restoring licensed nursing home care in Calais. That group is applying to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a $50,000 Rural Business Opportunity Grant to fund a feasibility study.

“This study will help determine whether it is practical to re-establish a nursing facility in Calais,” Barnes said Monday. “It is complicated. There are only so many beds in the system which are owned by the State of Maine but leased by the individual nursing facilities. If we were to re-establish a nursing facility in Calais, we would have to obtain bed rights from existing facilities and be eligible for state funding or reimbursement through MaineCare for eligible MaineCare patients.”

Closure of Atlantic Rehab caught the Calais community by surprise. First Atlantic’s certificate of need application for a new nursing home in Ellsworth — located 90 miles southwest of Calais — included mention of its plans to mothball its 39-year-old facility in Calais. That application was approved by DHHS regulators last fall, but didn’t become common knowledge in Calais until late January 2012.

That news left Atlantic Rehab residents and their families perplexed by the uncertainty of the timing of the closure and the reality of a chronic scarcity of nursing home vacancies throughout Washington County.

The city of Calais appealed the certificate of need approval, but that appeal was unsuccessful.

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