25 Investigates: Family members, employees call for state action to keep Roxbury nursing home open

ROXBURY, Mass — Family members and employees of a Roxbury nursing home spoke with tears in their eyes Thursday as they called for state and local officials to keep Edgar Benjamin Healthcare Center open.

25 Investigates confirmed this week that the nursing home’s CEO filed an intent to close by July 1.

Nearly 80 residents live at the nonprofit nursing home, which has been in operation for nearly a century in Roxbury.

Employees said residents have lived there for decades, and some have challenging conditions that will make it hard for them to find a home elsewhere.

“We’re hoping that somebody hears our plea to save our building and that the governor, the mayor, anyone will come forth and try to help us save our building,” said director of admissions and nurse Leslie Henderson.

Director of Nursing Marie Colsoul said the state should consider every option available – including a possible state take-over or receivership.

She said the community over the decades has fought to keep the Roxbury nursing home open.

“We want to shine a light and we’re asking for help,” she said. “Keep our doors open.”

25 Investigates broke the story in December about how employees have gone without paychecks at times over the past few months.

Employees and family members said they have questions about where the money is going.

Felix Ramos said his mother lives at the nursing home, and said he appreciates the staff for taking care of her and other residents even when paychecks have bounced.

He said he heard the nursing home was closing on the news.

“When I saw that, I was like, ‘What? How is this place closing?” he said. “It can’t close.”

He said he has questions about the fiscal management of the nursing home, which he said has a long history of serving the community.

“It needs to stay open for my mother and all these other patients that have been here all these years,” Ramos said. “It’s a travesty what’s going on. But something’s going on. Maybe somebody might need to investigate. I know my mother’s insurance pays for her staying here because it’s not free.”

“Money must be going somewhere,” he added.

Benjamin Healthcare Center President and CEO Tony Francis has blamed the closure on financial challenges including labor costs.

“Our hearts are heavy as we understand the significant impact of our center’s closure on residents, families and employees, as well as our hospital partners, particularly given the care that we provide to Boston’s communities of color,” Francis said in a Wednesday press release. “We have done everything in our power to keep the Benjamin viable and open, however, the fiscal reality of operating a nursing home in the current environment, including surging labor and other costs, have led us to this decision.”

25 Investigates has found Benjamin Healthcare Center CEO Tony Francis has the highest base salary of any top administrator at any nonprofit nursing home in Boston.

That’s based on a review of nursing home administrator salaries reported on the nursing homes’ IRS forms.

His pay has climbed from $189,435 in 2016 to $628,592 in 2021, according to compensation reported on the nursing home’s IRS forms.

According to the state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis, Francis’ total compensation in 2020 was $932,501 including health insurance, pension and payroll taxes.

25 Investigates has asked the attorney general’s office, the state Department of Public Health, the governor’s office and the Mayor’s office about what steps the state and city could take to keep residents at the home.

Those entities didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

In a statement Wednesday, Department of Public Health spokesperson Katheleen Conti said: “During the closure process, the facility is responsible for working with residents and their families to identify new placement for residents, and must maintain safe, high-quality care for all of its residents.”

“Throughout the closure process, DPH will review the facility’s proposed closure plan to ensure that the necessary measures are put in place to minimize the impact on residents and their families,” Conti said. “The Department will monitor the closure process to ensure the safe and orderly transfer of residents and that safe, high-quality resident care is maintained throughout.”

Conti said residents and family members who believe their needs aren’t being met by the facility may contact the facility’s Long Term Care Ombudsman to provide assistance or file a complaint with the Department of Public Health at (800) 462-5540.

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