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July 25, 2014





Nursing home closure felt by community
by Edward French


      The closure of Lubec's Oceanview Nursing Home at the end of August, which was recently announced, will leave a void in the community, say many local residents. One former employee, who declined an interview, called it a "travesty." The effect will be felt by those directly served and their families, by employees who now face a job search and near‑certain relocation and by the town and other businesses. The acknowledgment that financial losses will go beyond the million‑plus annual payroll is a frequently heard comment.
     "It was a perfect location," says Vern McKimmey, whose wife Carmen has been in the care of the skilled professionals at Oceanview for the last two years. "When it was announced last October that they were seeking a buyer," he says, "I wasn't particularly concerned, because I didn't think she'd last that long." McKimmey, who visits his ailing wife "pretty much every day," has since moved her to Machias, where distances will make daily visits "difficult at best." While praising the efforts of the Oceanview staff, he is concerned about the effect the changes may bring about. "I just want her comfortable and happy," he says. He fears the disruption may jeopardize her happiness during her remaining time.
     Cutler resident Royanne Mosley feels the same way. Her 95‑year-old mother, who has taken advantage of the Oceanview assisted living opportunities for a number of years, was the first to be moved -- to Calais. "I was able to visit her two or three times each week, sometimes more," says Mosley. "It will be difficult to do that now, and during the winter maybe not possible. At first she was seriously depressed, frightened," but has been reassured by the modern facility and professional staff in Calais.
     Mary Ramsdell, a 40‑year Oceanview employee, will likely retire but notes that "nobody wants to relocate." She worries about reduced local employment opportunities, adding, "I'm the lucky one."
     Marilyn Hughes, chief executive officer of the Regional Medical Center at Lubec (RMCL), notes that her career started at Oceanview in 1973 and that she has "many fond memories of my time there." She says that even though "over the last several years, unprecedented challenges resulted in both organizations having to do things differently," RMCL anticipates additional declines in revenue because of the closure.
     Lubec school board member Sonja Bailey points out that some of the employees who will likely be moving are parents. "I don't know how many kids we'll be losing from the school," she says. The cost per student will rise if the school population drops, as fixed costs will not go down.
     Steve Welsch, director of Downeast EMS, says that "we do eight to 10 transfers a month from the Oceanview Nursing Home," which equates to a drop of "$3,000 to $4,000 per month" from the chronically underfunded regional ambulance service, which has seen considerable belt‑tightening over the recent years. Community members have expressed concerns that other businesses may feel a similar effect.
     Select board member James Jones summed up what many are thinking. Addressing the board during the July 17 meeting, he asked them to "express their thanks to the nursing home" for many years of service to the community, while terming the lack of state and federal backing for these operations "appalling." He offered his "heartfelt thanks" to Oceanview for an "outstanding job for a long time" and called this loss and other similar closures "a blow to communities."

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