Monday’s storm tore off part of the roof of a Milbridge nursing home, forcing the company that owns it to evacuate the building and move residents to other locations temporarily.
The damage and resulting displacement of residents comes as many licensed nursing homes in Maine have shut down in recent years. Some have closed since the start of the pandemic due to the difficulty in retaining and housing staff, while many have closed over the past several years after struggling financially.
At least the top layer of roofing material lay crumpled in a heap along the top edge of the building on the western side Monday evening, hanging over the edge. Monday’s storm featured high winds including gusts in Washington County in excess of 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service.Some of the vinyl siding on the rear wall also appeared to come loose in the strong wind and had not yet been replaced as of Tuesday.
Mary Jane Richards, an official with Lewiston-based North Country Associates, said Tuesday that the rubber membrane on part of the roof at Narraguagus Bay was blown off in the storm, but the concrete roof remains “fully intact.” North Country Associates owns and operates the nursing home along with 20 other nursing homes in Maine.
The local fire department on Monday ordered the evacuation of the building and all 41 residents have been relocated temporarily, she said. Of the 41 residents, 26 have been transferred to Cortland Living Center in Ellsworth while the rest were moved overnight to the Gouldsboro Community Center or are staying with relatives.
“A structural engineer and roofing company will be at the facility today to ensure the roof is
sound and determine how to best repair or replace what was lost in the wind,” Richards said. “We look forward to welcoming residents back to the facility as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Narraguagus Bay has 58 beds, Richards said. She declined further comment.
Lewis Pinkham, Milbridge’s town manager, said Tuesday that he heard there also was some storm damage Monday to a private pier on Wyman Road. He said he has been busy, including driving a town plow truck during the storm, and hadn’t had time to speak with North Country Associates officials.
“It’s a shame it happened,” Pinkham said.
On Tuesday, several pieces of foam board lay along the ground on the building’s west side, where a large section of the rubber membrane still hung down to the ground from the roof.
Narraguagus Bay is one of only three licensed nursing homes in Washington County. Others are located in Eastport and Machias, according to state Department of Health and Human Services records.
The loss of the roof membrane and the need to get it inspected by an engineer adds to the list of issues Narraguagus Bay has had to address in recent years. Since 2019, the nursing home has been found in violation of some safety codes and has been told to make improvements on a few occasions, according to DHHS records posted online.
None of the DHHS records indicate there have been prior concerns about the roof or the overall condition of the building.
In May 2019, an inspection revealed that some fire sprinkler components had not been maintained properly, and that the nursing home had not conducted all of its required quarterly fire drills, among other things. Those issues were addressed with a plan of correction that Narragaugus Bay submitted to the department that same month.
The following year, in June 2020, inspectors found that staff had violated COVID-19 protocols by not requiring people who entered the building to immediately sanitize their hands.
In March 2021, inspectors found more fire code violations and determined that some residential rooms had not been properly maintained, and that the kitchen had not been properly maintained or cleaned. Fire code violations found last year included some exits that were obstructed and some smoke-barrier doors that did not close properly.
It was not clear Tuesday if the issues cited by DHHS in June 2020 and March 2021 had been resolved.