February 3

Letter to the editor: Nursing homes need action in Augusta

As the administrator of South Portland Nursing Home, I was pleased to see the recent op-ed by Rick Erb on the state’s long-term care study committee recommendations (“Maine Voices: Nursing-home care for Maine’s elderly is at risk,” Jan. 19).

The outline he provided regarding the challenges facing nursing home operations really captured my day-to-day experience as I strive to stay within budget. Typically, 75 to 80 percent of our residents rely on MaineCare, so the funding gap hits us particularly hard.

The state’s reimbursement for MaineCare residents has seen little increase in more than 10 years, while expenses for food, utilities, maintenance and labor have increased dramatically. These circumstances have forced Maine nursing homes to absorb more than $100 million in uncovered costs over that time.

This shortfall has made it extremely difficult to keep our facilities financially viable. The size of the annual gap has grown over time, and nursing home managers are soon going to run out of strategies to deal with this ongoing problem.

Over the past 10 years, several nursing homes have closed, most recently the nursing home in Calais. Closures such as these have a devastating effect not only on the aging population and their families but also on the workforce.

Compromising on the quality of care provided or the number of staff employed is not an option, leaving management with few areas in which to curb expenses. Eventually, underfunding prevents nursing homes from being able to operate and drives them to close their doors.

It was a great relief for the nursing home community to see that the study commission recognized these problems and offered a solution to help. Now, we need the Legislature and the governor to act quickly to pursue these recommendations and help our state’s nursing homes before they are financially overwhelmed.

Cindy N. Scott

South Portland

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