25 Investigates: Judge appoints temporary receiver to take over embattled Roxbury nursing home

BOSTON — A big win in court on Wednesday for residents and staff fighting to keep a historic Boston nursing home open.

According to court documents, a judge has agreed to appoint a temporary receiver to take over Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center in Roxbury.

The nominated receiver is Joseph D. Feaster Jr., the chair of Boston’s Task Force on Reparations.

25 Investigates spoke briefly with Leslie Henderson, the Director of Admissions at Benjamin Healthcare Center, who says the judge’s decision is like “a new day, a breath of fresh air for the facility.”

Although the financial feasibility of the temporary receivership will still need to be worked out, the decision provides a big boost for keeping the nursing home open.

An employee at the facility tells Boston 25 News outgoing CEO Tony Francis has departed the facility and cleared out his office.

On Tuesday, an attorney representing the group of residents and staff at the Benjamin Healthcare nursing home asked a judge to appoint a receiver to manage the facility while they fight to keep it open.

During an emergency hearing Tuesday, Oren Sellstrom from Lawyers for Civil Rights said the Massachusetts Department of Public Health filed an affidavit in support of his motion for a court-ordered takeover.

As 25 Investigates first reported in February, Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center CEO Tony Francis announced plans to close the home in July, citing insurmountable financial challenges.

In 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis was one of the highest-paid non-profit nursing home administrators in the state with a salary of $628,592.

Sellstrom told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Katie Rayburn that residents have been put at risk by the planned closure and court intervention is needed to “avert imminent harm to elderly patients.”

The Benjamin has served Boston’s African American community for nearly a century at 120 Fisher Avenue in Mission Hill. The nursing home is licensed for up to 200 beds but only 70 residents remain.

Sellstrom raised several issues first reported by 25 Investigates including multiple periods where employees did not get paychecks, or their checks bounced.

He also described poor security, a lack of medical supplies including colostomy bags, broken emergency call buttons, and missed meals.

“Patients are losing weight. That is a critical component in good nutrition for, patients, particularly elderly patients. And the idea that these are causing this kind of situation creates the imminent harm,” Sellstrom said.

A lawyer representing the nursing home said the facility has been working closely with the Department of Health and the facility has undergone multiple inspections since the planned closure was announced more than a month ago.

“This is a facility that is getting by, that is taking appropriate care of residents. They are going through a closure. They will be closing in just a few months. And the court should let them proceed,” attorney Adam L Littman explained.

Littman said the Benjamin has been following all the protocols required for a planned closure and he described the nursing home as, “not economically viable.”

Judge Rayburn didn’t immediately rule on the request for a receiver.

Tony Francis did not respond to a request for comment.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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