Atlantic Rehabilitation and Nursing Center of Calais will close its doors on July 6. Corporate owner First Atlantic Healthcare CEO Kenneth Bowden confirmed the news on June 5. "We have started the official process of closure as of today." He expects that six to seven of the residents will be discharged within the next week or so. The official announcement came just days after the June 1 announcement of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to reaffirm First Atlantic's certificate of need (CON) for a replacement facility in Ellsworth.
Despite the testimony in early April of many concerned about the health and well-being of their elderly relatives and the long‑term ability to meet the nursing home needs of Washington County's aging population, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew upheld the decision made in January to grant a CON to First Atlantic Healthcare to build the replacement facility in Ellsworth that would combine the operations of the Calais facility with Collier's Rehab and Nursing Center. The CON necessitates the removal of beds from the nursing home in Calais. Bowden says, "We're pleased she upheld the original CON."
With the news of the commissioner's June decision, Senate President Kevin Raye said, "There is a strong local determination to prevent this terrible loss, and I hope that First Atlantic will work with the community in ways that will ultimately lead to preserving a nursing home presence in Calais. Otherwise, Washington County will see a reduction in nursing home beds from 222 to 170 -- a 23% decrease at a time when our elderly population is increasing. That is not an acceptable outcome, and I will continue to work with local leaders to explore options in an effort to prevent that from occurring."
Raye shared his concerns in a release that included statements presented by the other members of the Washington County delegation, all concerned with the fate of the nursing home and the elderly population's needs. The release states that the delegation is committed to pursuing legislative options to change the Medicaid funding formula for rural nursing homes and hospitals that serve higher‑than‑average Medicaid population. In conjunction with Raye's office, Reps. Burns and Maker have filed a bill for consideration in the next legislative session.
The commissioner's decision is final, but the parties who are opposed have the right to appeal to Superior Court. No plans for such action have been voiced. Bowden said shortly after the June 1 announcement that First Atlantic was waiting to see if a court action might be forthcoming and that this might influence their planning decisions.
Calais City Manager Diane Barnes said of the June 1 announcement, "The City of Calais is disappointed in the commissioner's decision, especially that she didn't take into consideration the impact the loss of beds will have on the community, families, people working here and residents of the facility." The city will "do what we can to work with anyone to retain those beds in Calais." On June 5 Barnes added, "It's too bad that we didn't have more time" to work on alternative options for the facility. "The city spent an enormous amount of time preparing the appeal." If the municipality were to explore a city‑owned option, which Bowden had suggested as one method that would prove profitable for the city, Barnes explained that a great deal of research would need to be done before they could make such a commitment.
In Mayhew's final decision she writes that the arguments presented by the City of Calais that the Collier's project would eliminate beds in Calais and thus cause "an unmet public need in Calais and northern Washington County," as well as other concerns are "fundamentally flawed" arguments because "the elimination of nursing home beds is plainly not within the scope of activities requiring a CON." While the CON granted to Atlantic Healthcare does not eliminate beds, thus reducing the total number of beds available in the state, it reallocates them to another county.
The number of beds is a critical component to the CON regulatory process that governs the expansion or building of a healthcare facility. Maine is one of about 36 states that has CON regulations, which are meant to restrain healthcare facility costs and allow for coordinated planning of new services and construction. CON programs originated to regulate the number of beds in hospitals and nursing homes in order to prevent excess capacity and thus the inflation of healthcare prices.
Atlantic Rehab was originally licensed for 100 beds, but is now licensed for 52 and in January had 41 clients. There are now fewer than 20 residents at the Calais facility. With the news of the CON made public in January, about half of the resident population was moved by their families into other area nursing homes because of the fear that they might not find available spaces within an hour's drive if they waited.
Atlantic Healthcare CEO Ken Bowden explains that with the current number of residents at the Calais nursing home, "Our comments on record state the difficulty of continuing the operation with deficits."
In a release issued on June 5, Atlantic Rehab Administrator John Wood writes that residents, families and area providers have been notified of the closing and have been asked to help with new homes for the residents. DHHS and the state's Long-term Care Ombudsman Program have been notified. Wood says, "We are helping families with placement in other area nursing facilities and we are planning to assist employees by maintaining an open position listing throughout the closure process. Atlantic also has contacted the state's Rapid Response Office to ensure fast track access to job loss benefits for employees who cannot find work right away."