A car drives past Island Nursing Home on Route 15 in Deer Isle on Dec. 21, 2020. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

A task force formed to develop a long-term sustainable plan for reopening Deer Isle’s Island Nursing Home says the home will need to invest millions of dollars to construct workforce housing and raise additional capital funds to get the facility back in operation.

After 40 years, the Island Nursing Home closed in 2021, leaving a gap for older services in the region. The Island Nursing Home Task Force, formed in September, presented a report of their findings to the nursing home’s board last month. The report was publicly released this week.

“The big hill to climb is going to be housing,” said Ronda Dodge, the president of the nursing home board.

A lack of affordable housing in the region was identified as one of the major reasons the home closed and remains a significant obstacle to reopening.

The task force recommended developing as many as 20 new housing units for nursing home staff and said that any initial reopening capital campaign should dedicate no less than $2 million to the construction of new housing. Such a project could take two to three years to complete and is expected to need an additional $3.5 million in funding.

Dodge has met with builders to get estimates on potential development. The task force also recommended the home continue to solicit potential rental properties in the area to bridge the gap before any new housing could be built. The nursing home currently has about five rental homes lined up to house staff in the event it can reopen, according to Dodge.

The task force estimated that it would need at least 15 two- to four-bedroom winterized homes or apartments to accommodate 20 to 26 staff members that would likely need housing. Before the closure, there were about 60 people on staff.

In addition to the millions it would need to build housing, the task force said that the nursing home board needs to develop an operating and capital fundraising plan to reopen the nursing home facility. It suggested raising about $1 million and to seek out major donors. Reopening will likely start with a small number of patients. These funds would help the nursing home cover its costs for things such as heat, electricity, insurance and salaries, until it has enough paying residents to be self-sustaining.

The nursing home has also hired a consultant to assess the viability of reopening the facility. Dodge said the consultant is working to provide several potential reopening models. The target date for the home to reopen is September or October 2022. That would place the facility ahead of its de facto deadline of Feb. 2023, when it’s current license expires.

In addition to the housing and fundraising recommendations, the task force also suggested working on plans to bring in nurses from the Philippines, working with nurse training programs to recruit employees, and maintaining contact with former employees who might be interested in returning to work at the facility.

The nursing home board has reviewed the task force’s work and was in agreement with all the recommendations, Dodge said. The consultant is expected to present its initial report later this winter as well.