Angela Westhoff

Three rural Maine nursing homes announced their pending closures this week, all of them citing staffing challenges and the ongoing pandemic.

Officials at the 38-bed, nonprofit Island Nursing Home in Deer Isle on Monday used social media to announce they would close at the end of October after 40 years in business. That news was followed in quick succession by similar announcements from two more rural providers: Country Manor Nursing Home in Coopers Mills, with 30 beds, and the 21-bed Somerset Rehabilitation and Living Center in Bingham. Both facilities have informed the state about their plans. 

Island Nursing Home had a six-week COVID-19 outbreak with 100 cases and 14 resident deaths, local media reported per the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This has taken an unbelievable emotional toll on the staff who are there,” said Jess Maurer, executive director of the Maine Council on Aging. “Across the whole state we’re seeing staff, vaccinated or not, walking away from their jobs.”

For its part, Island Nursing Home’s board of directors says, “There are simply not enough qualified staff available in a rapidly declining healthcare workforce. We have spent months exhausting every staffing resource at our disposal and beginning this fall, we will no longer be able to meet our minimum staffing requirements.”

Island Nursing also blamed its inability to attract workers on its “remote location, Maine winters, and the lack of affordable housing near our facility.”

Country Manor managers said they will close because of declining occupancy and staffing shortages — and the fact that six direct care and nursing employees out of 58 total said they would not be vaccinated against COVID-19. Maine’s healthcare worker vaccine mandate goes into effect Oct. 1.

“I think there’s going to be a cascade of closures if we can’t get some financial relief to these facilities, but also think about a long-term strategy for the workforce problems,” Angela Westhoff, president of the Maine Health Care Association, told The Bangor Daily News.