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by Faith DeAmbrose
With a unanimous motion, Penobscot’s board of selectmen voted April 24 to have its attorney Jim Modisette file for an extension for public comments to a court filing by Maine Department of Health and Human Services seeking the ultimate closure of the Penobscot Nursing Home. The extension, they said, will allow for additional time to “figure out if we have other options.”
There is a 21-day time limit, according to court documents (and as written in state statute), to oppose the court filing, which was dated April 6.
The filing seeks permission from the court to allow the bed rights licensed to PNH to be sold to an entity seeking to build a new nursing home facility in Bucksport.
According to board chairman Paul Bowen, the selectmen believe the town should have received notice from DHHS about its intentions during the Certificate of Need (CON) process for the Bucksport facility completed March 7. “I don’t understand why we were not considered an interested party in this matter,” he said.
The Department of Health and Human Services gave conditional approval in the CON to the Bucksport facility, providing it could attain additional bed rights, although PNH was not specifically identified in the CON documents as a possible source.
Seeking to support the town of Penobscot, Blue Hill’s board of selectmen voted April 20 to join the town in its efforts toward gaining an extension. The Blue Hill selectmen authorized Jim Schatz to contact other area towns to see if unified opposition to the court filing existed.
During the past week, Schatz has gained formal motions from the boards of selectmen in Brooklin and Brooksville to join the effort, and he is on the agenda for the next meetings in Castine and Sedgwick.
Modisette will work in concert with Jim Patterson, who represents many other area municipalities, to file the extension.
The DHHS filing has also caused area state Representatives Ralph Chapman of Brooksville and Walter Kumiega of Deer Isle to take notice. In a letter to DHHS Director of Licensing and Regulation Kenneth Albert, the two legislators support the sale of some of PNH’s bed rights to the Deer Isle non-profit Island Nursing Home: “There is significant overlap in the service areas of PNH and INH and allowing all of those beds to leave that area will create a hardship for families. INH has a waiting list already and the closure of PNH will certainly cause that list to grow. The proposed 61 bed facility in Bucksport is not big enough or located in the right place to serve all of the communities on the Blue Hill peninsula.”
Chapman and Kumiega also call for more fairness and transparency in the process: “…[W]e think it is in the best interest of the communities involved that the State undergo a fair and transparent Certificate of Need process that puts the needs of the community ahead of the wants of corporations.”