Sudden closure of Patten nursing home leaves residents, staff in limbo

Published: Aug. 2, 2018 at 6:15 PM EDT
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"This is our family. This isn't just people off the street, this is our family."

Pauline Withee feels like she's being ripped away from people she loves and cares for deeply. The sudden announcement of the Mountain Heights Health Care Facility closure has left her and all 21 other residents beyond devastated.

"So what are we going to do? We've got to fight for our home, this is our home," said Withee.

"I think it's a cruel, cruel thing. You put horses out to pasture but we don't eat grass," said resident Margaret Duffy.

The facility's owner Dr. Stephen Weisberger announced the facility's closure on Wednesday, the reasons being decline in daily occupancy over recent years and the increase in minimum wage and its impact on staffing levels. The current plan is to cease all operations and close the building by September 1st. The Department of Health and Human Services approved the closure and is working with Mountain Heights representatives on relocating residents. It's a plan residents aren't the least bit fond of.

"All I know is I'd hate to have my nurses go and I'd hate to be moved into some other place," said resident Therlia St. Germaine. "I'm going to be 102 if I live through January and that's too bad to change things here for me."

Dorothy Howard said "I moved here, it'll be ten years next month, and I thought I had a home for the rest of my life."

53 staff members at the facility are being forced to find other work. While they're undoubtedly upset to lose their jobs, what really has them dismayed is the thought of what's going to happen to the residents who they consider family.

"These are people that were relevant in the area growing up and now we can't take care of our own? We are not going to see them taken out of here one by one. It's wrong and we are going to try to fight it," said Danette Moody, who is a CNA at the facility.

Another CNA, Janet Day said she was horrified when the closure was announced. "I cried and cried, it was horrible watching them go through it."

Betti Jo Michaud is Pauline Withee's daughter. She too was heartbroken by the news, and is wondering what's going to happen next.

"She's my mom. it breaks my heart," said Michaud. "I just want to make it all alright for her and I can't do that, it's out of my hands."

Town manager Raymond Foss says the announcement rocked their small town.

"I mean it's like a bomb went off in town," said Foss. "That's 53 positions employment which is huge and its also 22 residents and that's home for them."

Among all the uncertainty surrounding this sudden announcement, residents, staff and family members are sure about one thing - they're not going down without a fight.

Early this afternoon supporters of the facility held a rally to protest the closure. Mt. Heights has been providing care for area seniors since the 1950's.

Newssource 8 will continue to follow this story.