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News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 4, 2022 and The Weekly Packet, August 4, 2022
INH board president quits; town hires lawyer
Dodge steps aside for Weed

by Leslie Landrigan

Ronda Dodge announced her resignation from the Island Nursing Home board on August 1, the day before a citizens’ campaign began with a demand for the full board to resign.

Leon Weed, the INH board vice president, has stepped up to replace Dodge as president, according to the press release that announced her resignation.

During Dodge’s presidency, the nursing home closed suddenly last October. The board announced in July its intention to sell its skilled-nursing bed licenses and to try to reopen as a residential care facility. The town has since hired an attorney to try to prevent the sale of the bed rights.

Since the closure, Dodge and the board have been the target of criticism for a perceived lack of transparency and, more recently, for the proposed sale of the skilled-nursing bed licenses.

License extension

INH, which closed October 22, 2021, has until October 22, 2023, to reopen as a nursing home or else it will have to reapply for licenses.

Shortly after the nursing home closed, INH received a one-year extension of its license from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It was Dodge’s hard work that resulted in the one-year extension, Weed said in the August 1 press release.

The INH board announced the extension at a July 20 meeting of the Peninsula League of Towns, attended by over 100 members of the public in person and on Zoom.

During the meeting, several people, including Stonington Selectman John Steed, demanded that the full INH board resign.

The board, through INH’s spokesman, Dan Cashman, said no one was quitting as a result of that meeting.

“Ronda informed the board on the 20th that she would be stepping down now that the extension was granted,” Cashman said in an email. “She attended the board meeting on the 21st and verbally reiterated that with the extension she would be stepping down to focus on other things.” He said he believed her last day was July 22.

Asked whether Dodge would continue her involvement with INH, Cashman replied, “That is an impossible question to answer.”

Bed licenses

The proposed sale of INH’s skilled-nursing bed licenses could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for INH, the board has said. But there’s a downside. If the Island Nursing Home were to reopen as a residential care facility, patients would have to move elsewhere once they become sick enough to require more medical attention.

The August 1 press release reiterated that the nursing home closed because of a severe staff shortage. “The data found that about 38 percent of Maine nursing care facilities have staffing shortages,” the press release said.

That raises a question: Why does the INH board think it can sell skilled-nursing beds in Maine if nursing homes are having such trouble hiring staff?

According to Cashman, “there are signs that some or all of the bed rights could possibly be sold in the near future in Maine.” He also said it’s anyone’s guess whether or not those bed rights could be sold a year from now, when INH’s license expires and the bed rights lose their value.

If INH sells all its skilled-nursing bed licenses, the facility would likely never offer skilled-nursing care again, said Evelyn Duncan, Stonington selectman and former INH board member. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone,” she said at the Peninsula League meeting.

Lawyer

“Stonington has hired an attorney to see if the community has any standing to prevent the sale of the beds,” said Town Manager Kathleen Billings in an interview on August 1.

Billings said the attorney is in contact with INH’s lawyer, John Doyle, a partner with Augusta-based Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios. Billings said Stonington’s lawyer is in the process of finding out the status of the bed licenses.

Stonington has asked Deer Isle to help with legal costs. At Deer Isle’s July 28 select board meeting, the topic came up, said Town Manager Jim Fisher in an email. “No decision was made,” Fisher said. “They want the audit documents before committing to other actions.”

Both towns, as well as the Ad-Vantages, have asked for INH’s most recent audited financial statement. Though INH indicates on its tax return that it will make those statements available upon request, the board has repeatedly refused to do so.

Leon Weed

With Dodge’s resignation, the INH board currently includes six board members, including three Stonington residents: Cindy Lash, Karen Vickerson and Skip Greenlaw, who serves as treasurer. The board also includes Tim Hoechst of Deer Isle, Bill Cohen, a Brooklin selectman, and Gidget Fagerberg of North Attleboro, Mass.

The terms for Lash and Hoechst expire on October 1, 2022, Cashman said. Cohen is the most recent addition to the board.

Weed, from Sedgwick, graduated from Deer Isle-Stonington High School in 1996, from Southern Maine Technical College in 2002 and from Eastern Maine Technical College in 2004, according to Cashman.

He served 5-1/2 years in the Maine Army National Guard and the U.S. Navy, Cashman said. Since 1994, he has served as a Deer Isle volunteer firefighter and, since 2005, he has worked as a sternman. He has also worked at North Atlantic Seafood, Rite Aid, Walgreens and at the Island Nursing Home.

Currently, Weed is regularly checking on the INH facility, said Cashman, as are other board members. No one is getting paid for doing so, he said.