News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 16, 2022
Deer Run residents want meeting with INH board
Future of nursing home on their minds

by Leslie Landrigan

Deer Run residents want to hold an in-person, Island-wide open meeting about the Island Nursing Home, according to Tenney Gavaza, an 18-year resident of the retirement community.

Gavaza said she is gathering signatures for a letter to ask the INH board of directors to meet with Island residents.

“It needs to be in person with everybody. Everybody’s complaining, everybody wants a say,” she said in a phone interview. Gavaza said she speaks for everyone in the 24-unit Deer Run complex.

The INH board of directors has said it plans to hold a community meeting to discuss future uses of the now-closed facility. That announcement came with the May 12 release of a redacted report by a consultant, Covenant Health Systems. The INH board asked Covenant to help figure out whether the nursing home could reopen.

The Ad-Vantages printed an executive summary of Covenant’s report, which said reopening the nursing home isn’t financially feasible. In a subsequent letter to the editor, board member Skip Greenlaw wrote that the INH board could not develop a plan for reopening the nursing home because it could not find sufficient nursing staff to care for the residents in the nursing care section of INH. (Emphasis Greenlaw’s.)

Gavaza said Deer Run residents are upset about the loss of the nursing home. “The nursing home would be our last home, we want it there for us,” she said.

At the June 9 select board meeting, Town Manager Jim Fisher said he had discussed a potential community-wide Zoom meeting with Greenlaw.

Deer Isle selectmen, however, said they wouldn’t attend a Zoom meeting because the INH board has not been transparent about its finances.

The INH board’s decision to redact financial information from the Covenant report caught people’s attention, said Stonington Town Manager Kathleen Billings. “That really resonated with everybody,” she said in a phone interview.

Billings said she’s concerned the public doesn’t understand the nursing home will never reopen if it doesn’t do it by October 22, 2022. Its license from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services license expires then, Board President Ronda Dodge has said. The state of Maine’s license expires in February 2023, she said.

“People did not realize, if we don’t get the doors open to it, we’ve lost those licenses,” Billings said.

Gavaza would like to see Stonington Selectman Evelyn Duncan join the INH board, she said. Duncan has proposed reopening the nursing home with financial support from island and peninsula towns.