August 28, 2013

Maine to help find beds for 34 discharged from care unit

Slots for MaineCare recipients will be hard to find as St. Joseph's closes its assisted-living space to make upgrades.

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

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St. Joseph's is owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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St. Joseph's isn't alone. Forty-one percent of MaineCare-dependent assisted-living facilities need to be renovated or replaced, according to the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.

Winchell said she's working with the state Department of Health and Human Services and the ombudsman program to ensure that displaced residents find safe and secure places to live, as required under Maine law.

Some residents may have medical needs that qualify them for vacant beds in St. Joseph's 121-bed skilled-nursing unit, Winchell said. No renovations are planned for that unit.

Gallant said she asked Winchell whether residents of the assisted-living unit could be accommodated in the skilled-nursing unit during the renovations.

"She said (the renovations) would be too extensive," Gallant said.

Winchell gave residents a list of eight other assisted-living facilities -- without contact information -- that might have openings in the near future: 75 State Street, the Portland Center for Assisted Living and Clark's Terrace at Park Danforth in Portland; Ledgeview Residential Care in Cumberland; Clover Residential Home and Schooner Estates in Auburn; Rumford Community Home; and Farmington Congregate Housing.

"We don't close until all of our residents are in an appropriate place," Winchell said. "We're finding there are enough (MaineCare) beds."

That hasn't been the experience for one woman whose loved one is being displaced from St. Joseph's and is a MaineCare recipient.

The woman asked not to be identified because she fears that her loved one may experience retaliation at St. Joseph's or have a harder time finding another assisted-living facility.

The woman said she called the four facilities listed in the Portland area and was told that 75 State Street has no available beds, Clark's Terrace has a two-year waiting list and Ledgeview doesn't accept MaineCare.

The Portland Center for Assisted Living has some openings, the woman said, but it has had a sudden spike in interest in the wake of St. Joseph's announcement.

"It's very overwhelming for me," the woman said. "They're putting all these people out, and I know how few MaineCare beds there are. I think they've lost all compassion for people and it's all about money."

The woman said she has been mostly satisfied with the care her loved one has received at St. Joseph's, though apparent staffing reductions in recent months led to less attentive care.

Eight employees will be affected by the unit's closure, Winchell said. St. Joseph's plans to offer some of them jobs in other departments and help others find positions elsewhere.

Winchell said St. Joseph's had been operated by Catholic Health East, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that includes Mercy Hospital in Portland.

In May, Catholic Health East merged with Trinity Health of Michigan. Together, they operate in 21 states and hold $19.3 billion in assets, according to Trinity's website.

Officials of the merged health care group didn't respond to calls from the Portland Press Herald.

Daniel Barrett, a Portland lawyer who is chairman of St. Joseph's 10-member board of directors, didn't respond directly to a request for comment. When Winchell was interviewed, she said Barrett authorized her to speak for him.

Dave Guthro, spokesman for the Catholic diocese, was asked Tuesday to seek comment from church officials on the impact of the unit's closure on MaineCare recipients and on whether the renovated facility will accept MaineCare recipients.

Guthro didn't call back with a response.

Gallant said the regional ombudsman will meet with St. Joseph's residents weekly through the coming months to make sure they find new homes.

"We're going to look out for people," she said.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 28, 2013, to reflect that Gallant said Winchell told her the renovations would be too extensive to accommodate residents at the facility. It was the reporter's error.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Twitter: @KelleyBouchard


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