April 23, 2019
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Residents still awaiting decision on possible closure of Calais nursing home

CALAIS, Maine — Area residents and city officials who have a stake in the Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center are still awaiting word on the future of the community’s only licensed nursing home.

“I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me: ‘Have you heard any news?’” City Manager Diane Barnes said Tuesday. “I’d be rich.”

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 over 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. While some residents have already relocated, there are waiting lists at other facilities, many of which are located miles away from family and friends.

An April 5 public hearing in Calais drew more than 100 people, virtually all speaking in opposition to the state’s certificate of need approval, citing a chronic shortage of skilled care beds in Washington County. Since that hearing, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew has been reviewing the testimony. According to the governor’s office, Mayhew has until June 6 to decide whether the closure authorization should stand.

First Atlantic CEO Kenneth Bowden testified in April that the facility is drowning in red ink, estimating that expenses in 2011 exceed revenues by $272,000. In the first two months of this year, he said, the facility was running $131,000 in the red, due in part to a dwindling resident census prompted by fears of closure.

Bowden has been 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.

City Manager Diane Barnes said Tuesday there have been no discussions about transferring ownership and there won’t be until a ruling emerges from DHHS.

Due to a constantly dwindling resident headcount, some workers already have been let go while others have been cut back to part time. The facility’s director, John Wood, is currently on site only three days a week.

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