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News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 18, 2021
Task force: INH will have to move quickly
But needs to solve long-term problems, too

The Island Nursing Home board will have to move quickly if it wants to reopen the facility, according to the INH task force during a Zoom community forum on November 15.

The INH board will also have to solve the long-term problem of affordable housing, task force members told the group of about 40 people who joined the meeting.

The INH task force has been meeting for weeks to come up with recommendations for reopening the nursing home, which closed on October 26 due to a shortage of staff.

Though the task force is still working on recommendations, one theme did emerge: The nursing home will have to find places for staff to live from the time the facility reopens to the time an affordable housing solution can be found.

“We need to be able to bridge that gap,” said state Rep. Genevieve McDonald, vice chair of the task force, in a phone interview. “As we talk about building or purchasing workforce housing for the nursing home, it is going to take some time.”

The task force is therefore developing a list of landlords willing to house people for a reasonable rent, McDonald said.

Larry McKenna, a community member on the forum, asked why the nursing home couldn’t just open with fewer residents and house the staff in the rest of the building until it solves the affordable housing problem.

Task Force Chair Sam Harrington said state and federal regulations prevent that from happening.

INH has a suspended license, which will expire in October 2022, unless it can get an extension to February 2023.

Transparency

“To bring back our nursing home, the community must come together with commitments of money, time, real estate, housing and other forms of support,” Harrington said. “We all have to pull together to make this work.”

Harrington said the task force will not make public all of its recommendations. But it will make some recommendations public, he said.

Task force member Anne Schroth, executive director of Healthy Peninsula, explained further at a virtual Healthy Island Project community breakfast the next day.

“A lot of the recommendations will be very involved and will involve confidential financial information and details about the operation,” Schroth said. But, she said, “we’re not going to be just a black box.”

Rich Howe, who serves on the task force, pointed out that the INH board is not obligated to follow the task force recommendations.

“The board is in control of the nursing home, the task force is here to advise them,” Howe said. “It will be their decision, they can involve the staff, they can involve the community, however they want.”

Timeline

Ronda Dodge, INH board president, expressed optimism during the HIP breakfast that the facility will reopen.

“It seems like we have a path forward,” she said. “Unless something big happens, it’s doable.”

During the first week of December, the task force will meet with the INH board to examine the recommendations, she said.

“At the end of December, or the first week in January, we will be making it public as to what the recommendation is and whether we have accepted the recommendation,” Dodge said.

She also said the INH board would make an announcement next week that involves governance.

Residents and staff

Dede Ragot, INH’s director of social services, is staying on to help with the former residents’ transition to new homes. She told the community forum she has visited with 35 former INH residents.

Ragot is connecting former residents with volunteers who will stay in touch with them. “I’ve had a flood of volunteers,” Ragot said. Half of the former residents have been matched with volunteers, she said.

Until the nursing home closed, Heidi Gillen served as administrator in training. Now, she’s interim administrator and will continue in that role until December 2, Dodge said at the HIP breakfast.

“I hope to continue,” Gillen said at the forum. “It doesn’t mean I’ll be the next executive director.”