CALAIS, Maine — Friday will be moving day for 82-year-old Marice Chaffee, although her daughter hasn’t had the heart to break the news.
“She’s been crying, so maybe somebody told her what’s happening,” Sue Claridge said Tuesday. “I won’t tell her until Friday.”
What’s happening is that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has reaffirmed its decision to allow Calais’ only nursing home to be closed. Marice, who suffers from dementia, has called the 50-bed Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center home for the past two years. By week’s end she’ll be living at a nursing home in Machias, 45 miles from her daughter and her husband, Philip. At 89, he lives just a few blocks from the Calais nursing facility and now visits his wife of 65 years twice a day.
“Machias was the nearest opening we could find,” Claridge said Tuesday. “I have her on the waiting list for Eastport, but it could be a long wait. This has been very hard and very trying, not only for the families and the residents, but for the workers.”
The Portland-based firm that owns the 39-year-old facility has yet to announce a formal plan for locking the doors, although Claridge said Tuesday that First Atlantic Healthcare’s license expires at the end of this month. Closure will cost 92 workers their jobs.
Since word of the prospect of closure became public in January, the resident population has been dwindling steadily, with families scrambling to find new placements amid a chronic shortage of nursing homes throughout Washington County.
Calais Mayor Joseph Cassidy said Tuesday city officials will meet within the next week to brainstorm options for keeping the facility open.
“This decision threw us for a loop,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re not happy with how this turned out, and it has left us scrambling. But, now that we know where things stand, we can look at all the options, which include city ownership or having it be hospital-run.”
First Atlantic Healthcare CEO Kenneth Bowden has suggested that 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 recent public hearing.