A nursing home in Bar Harbor is expected to close within the next 60 days, which will displace more than 50 residents and leave nearly 60 people without jobs.
North Country Associates, which owns and operates Sonogee Rehabilitation and Living Center, said Monday that declining occupancy of the shorefront Route 3 facility and a mandated minimum wage increase led to the decision to close Sonogee by April 26.
“The [Maine] Department of Health and Human Services has approved the closure and is working with Sonogee’s representatives on relocation plans for the residents who reside in the building,” North Country officials said. “Sonogee’s employees, DHHS staff and the local long term care ombudsman will be assisting residents and family members choose new housing and care options.”
Mary Jane Richards, spokeswoman for North Country, said Tuesday that Sonogee currently has 53 residents.
Fifty-eight people who work at Sonogee are expected to be laid off as a result of the closure, North Country officials said. North Country, which is based in Lewiston, operates nearly two dozen nursing and rehabilitation facilities in Maine.
“Sonogee Rehabilitation and Living Center began providing care for area seniors in the early 1980s and it has been owned and operated by North Country Associates since that time,” the company said. “The decision to close the facility was made after carefully considering all other options.”
According to ProPublica, Sonogee has been cited more than two dozen times by regulators since February 2016 for operational deficiencies that include improper record keeping, substandard resident hygiene and unsanitary kitchen conditions, among other things.
Last September, Sonogee was fined $7,800 after an employee recorded video on her phone of a resident defecating on a toilet and then forwarded the video to a former Sonogee employee. The employee who recorded the video was fired after Sonogee officials learned of the video, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services incident report.
North Country did not respond to inquiries Tuesday about what role the cited deficiencies may have played in the decision to close down the facility.
Many nursing homes in Maine have been struggling financially for the past several years. In 2018 six nursing homes in Maine closed, doubling the number that closed throughout Maine from 2012 through 2017. Since 1995, nearly 40 have closed in Maine.
North Country officials did not say what plans they have, if any, for the property after the nursing home shuts down.
Sonogee has nearly 28,000 square-feet of living space and sits on a 4.4-acre oceanfront parcel between a mansion that is on the market for $15.5 million and a hotel where former President Barack Obama stayed with his family during a 2010 vacation to Acadia National Park. The total assessed value of the property, including buildings, is $4.4 million.
Before being converted into a nursing home into the mid-1970s, a mansion also known as Sonogee at the site was used as a seasonal summer home by a succession of wealthy families between 1903, when it was built, and the late 1960s, according to a 1970 New York Times article.