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Three Maine nursing homes set to close

Just this week, three nursing homes announced they would close permanently due to staffing issues

MAINE, USA — Island Nursing Home and Care Center on Deer Isle, Country Manor in Coopers Mills, a village in Whitefield, and the Somerset Rehabilitation and Living Center in Bingham are all expected to close by the end of next month.

Experts say this likely won't be the last of the nursing home closures.

"It's hard," said 88-year-old Theresa Pelletier. Pelletier has been staying at Bangor Nursing and Rehabilitation for about three months.

While the facility Pelletier is staying at isn't closing, her daughters, Sharon Ayer and Brenda Pollack, have been looking for facilities that may be able to offer more care. They haven't been able to find another bed for their mother and have learned about the staffing shortages firsthand.

"I have talked to so many administrators and that's the underlying thread, that there's not enough people working in this industry," Ayer said.

This week's announcements just compound that problem.

"Just because we will no longer be able to staff at the minimum safe level required for our residents," Mary Dowe, registered travel nurse currently assigned to the Somerset Rehab and Living Center in Bingham, which announced its closure to staff and residents on Wednesday.

Dowe said that at her facility, there simply aren't enough employees willing to be vaccinated.

"It's not going to allow us the time to recruit or maintain the staff that we do have that maintain the criteria for vaccination," she said.

"Unfortunately, most facilities are in the same boat in the sense that the staffing shortage is really challenging their efforts to accept new admissions," said Angela Westhoff with the Maine Health Care Association.

On Thursday, Governor Janet Mills announced a change to vaccine requirement enforcement dates, but Dowe said she doesn't think this will help keep current workers in the industry.

Dowe said she believes those who haven't been vaccinated will stand firm and leave the health care industry instead of getting the shot.