Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 26, 2012
Penobscot Nursing Home
Blue Hill selectmen join with area towns to seek extension to DHHS court filing
by Faith DeAmbrose
Continuing with motions made during the April 13 meeting of the Blue Hill board of selectmen to support efforts to keep the Penobscot Nursing Home from closing its doors and relocating patients to Bucksport, the board took action on April 20 that solidifies that stand.
With a unanimous vote, the board authorized Selectman Jim Schatz to reach out to other area towns to see if support exists for a unified opposition to a recent court filing by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. 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.
During the past week, Schatz has gained formal motions from the boards of selectmen in Brooklin and Brooksville to join the effort, and will be on the agenda for the next meetings in Castine and Sedgwick. The first step in the process will be to buy some time.
With a 21-day comment period (as written in state statute) to oppose the April 6 court filing, the Blue Hill, Brooklin and Brooksville, and possibly Castine and Sedgwick, boards will join with the town of Penobscot to seek an extension of the deadline. Penobscot’s board of selectmen voted on April 24 to have its attorney, Jim Modisette, work in concert with attorney Jim Patterson, who represents the majority of the towns listed above, to file the extension.
According to Penobscot selectman Paul Bowen, the extension will allow for additional time to “figure out if we have other options.” He said he believes the town of Penobscot should have received notice from DHHS about its intentions during the Certificate of Need process for the Bucksport facility completed March 7.
The DHHS filing has also caused 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.”