Dozens gathered for a July 20 meeting on the future of nursing home care in the great Blue Hill Peninsula area. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY JENNIFER OSBORN

Nursing home to sell ‘bed rights’

DEER ISLE — Island Nursing Home (INH) has received a one-year extension on its “temporary closure” to Oct. 22, 2023, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which regulates nursing homes, among its other responsibilities.

That was news from the Island Nursing Home Board of Directors relayed by member Skip Greenlaw. The board met at the Deer Isle town office July 20 with the Peninsula League of Towns to discuss options for nursing home care on the peninsula.

INH, which offered residential and nursing care to older adults, closed last October amid a severe staffing shortage hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What this will do will give us a little time and flexibility to sell the MaineCare ‘bed rights’ for the skilled nursing beds,” Greenlaw said. “Those bed rights lose all value once our license expires. We are still working on the process of selling the skilled nursing beds as that process takes time and involves further approvals from DHHS.”

The meeting was moderated by CSD 13 Board Chairwoman Jane Osborne, who said the purpose of the gathering was “to collect information to help inform next steps for INH and what can be done to support aging in place on the peninsula.”

There were a number of questions posed about what had already happened with the nursing home closure.

“One hundred percent of the people I talked to, it was the administrator,” as to why they resigned, said Deer Isle Select Board Chairman Ron Eaton.

“I don’t know the facts,” Greenlaw replied. “It’s a concern, but what I want to do tonight and here on is move forward.”

Sedgwick Select Board Chairman Ben Astbury asked if INH had solicited interested in the sale of bed rights or if the nursing home had been approached.

Attorney John P. Doyle Jr. from Preti-Flaherty, which is helping the board with regulatory issues, said “that’s been on the list of potentials.”

The state is encouraging INH to pursue a residential care facility, according to Doyle. Residential care is less intensive staffing-wise than providing skilled nursing care.

“Res care is no picnic,” said Doyle. “We have probably 100 pages of regulations to fill. They’ve asked us to come forward with solid financial and staffing plans.”

Stonington Select Board member John Steed expressed disappointment with how the closure has been handled.

“This has been horribly mismanaged, at least from a communications standpoint,” Steed said. “No one has said, ‘Sorry, we mishandled this.’”

Greenlaw did tell those assembled at the beginning of the meeting that podcasts the INH board did around the time of the closure and after with Island Health and Wellness did not “get into the community as effectively as we had hoped, resulting in a lack of communication. We recently hired a public relations firm to help us with this as we continue our pursuit of viable options.”

Stonington Town Manager Kathleen Billings expressed frustration with the state of Maine itself.

“This is a really difficult situation,” Billings said. “The state of Maine won’t step up. They want to do climate change, they want to do windmills, but some of the basic needs of their people aren’t being met.”

Greenlaw said he would be willing to meet monthly with a small group.

“More transparency is what we’re looking for,” Eaton said.

“Come talk to us,” said Stonington Select Board Chairman John Robbins. “If something’s going on, let us know. And thank you for this meeting tonight.”

Greenlaw replied, “It’s important when we come that we not be abused and have a civil dialogue.”

Toward the end of the meeting, there was time for a few questions and comments from the public, which numbered nearly 60.

Seasonal Deer Isle resident Gwyn Murray, who had served on the now defunct INH Task Force, said she was frustrated with the lack of publicity about the meeting.

“I learned about this meeting from the garden club,” Murray said. “Not from the INH board or anyone else.”

Murray also called for a refresh of the Board of Directors.

“I know people on the board work hard,” Murray said. “But we need a board that is vetted and brings a variety of knowledge. I think it’s time to revamp the board.”

“I think we’re well past a local situation,” said Craig Hutchinson of Stonington. “I think this is a federal problem. I think the problem is clear. We don’t have the people to do the job. Get in the Governor’s face and the Speaker’s face and the president of the Senate and get some direction about how this is going to get solved. It is clearly a national issue. I haven’t heard about getting the congressional delegation involved.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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