CALAIS, Maine — In the view of Calais Mayor Joe Cassidy, it’s not over until it’s over.
The only licensed nursing home in Calais closed last week, displacing dozens of residents and costing 92 health care workers their jobs.
Cassidy said Tuesday the city will convene a “mass brainstorming session” sometime during the week of July 8 to weigh the costs and benefits of possibly transferring ownership of the Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center to a new, public entity that would allow the 52-bed facility to reopen.
“Working with [state Senate President] Kevin Raye and other Washington County legislators as facilitators, we’ll pull together the stakeholders and discuss what’s possible,” Cassidy said. “That might include the local hospital and also First Atlantic, although we’ve had no discussion with them since they announced the closure.”
First Atlantic is the Portland-based firm that owns the nursing home. It received approval from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to build a new nursing home facility in Ellsworth. In its certificate of need application, which was approved in October and reaffirmed in May after an appeal by the city of Calais, First Atlantic told DHHS it would close Atlantic Rehab in Calais.
“It would be a very difficult proposition to have city ownership of the facility without some form of help,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “I’m not sure what that would be, but that’s among the things we’ll discuss.”
Cassidy said it has yet to be determined whether the discussion about the future of the facility will be public or held behind closed doors. “Either way,” he said, “the results of the meeting will be made public.”
First Atlantic recently announced that Atlantic Rehab would be closed on July 6. When the few remaining residents were able to find placements elsewhere sooner, the closure was moved up to June 21.
Residents and their families didn’t learn until February that closure was likely, even though the DHHS approved the certificate of need application in October of 2011. For months, residents and their caretakers have been scrambling to find space in other Washington County nursing homes, virtually all of which have waiting lists.
First Atlantic CEO Kenneth Bowden said at a public hearing in April that the facility was drowning in red ink, estimating that expenses in 2011 exceeded revenues by $272,000.
He also stated that transferring ownership to the city of Calais might be a viable option because reimbursement rates for nursing homes that are publicly owned are significantly higher than the rates of reimbursement for which private-sector owners are eligible.