City Council passes resolution backing residents, staff of Boston nursing home facing closure

BOSTON — Boston City councilors passed a unanimous resolution Wednesday in support of residents and staff who are raising alarm about the sudden proposed closure of a storied local nursing home.

The resolution calls for “transparency and engagement” from nursing home CEO Tony Francis, who this month filed an intent to close Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center with the state.

In a statement, Francis said, “We appreciate the Council’s resolution and concern. Benjamin Healthcare Center has been working diligently to communicate with staff, residents, families and the community. We will continue to do so.”

The nonprofit nursing home and rehabilitation center is home to 76 residents – primarily residents of color – and has served Roxbury and Mission Hill for nearly a century.

Francis is seeking approval to close the nursing home by July 1. He’s cited “insurmountable” fiscal challenges.

But family members, employees, and residents of the nursing home tell Boston 25 that they fear it will be impossible to find nearby beds for all 76 residents by July 1.

Some family members who have begun reaching out to other area nursing homes told Boston 25 on Wednesday they are facing waitlists of six months to years to find their loved ones a bed.

The City Council’s resolution said that residents lack clarity about where they’ll go once July 1 arrives and that staff were left out of a Feb. 22 meeting about the closure at the nursing home.

“While CEO Francis has stated that the facility would work to find placements for all 76 residents as well as jobs for its staff, the community’s trust is low,” the resolution reads.

The resolution continues: “The Boston City Council strongly urges management at the Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center to improve communication with residents, their families and staff regarding the closure and supports their efforts to be consulted and involved in alternative plans prior to the July 1, 2024 planned closure.”

Council members Henry Santana and Benjamin Weber sponsored the resolution.

Meanwhile, family members, employees and residents who spoke at the nursing home Wednesday said they have formally asked the Attorney General and state Department of Public Health to take over the nursing home through a receivership – a step the state took decades ago to keep the nursing home running.

The State Department of Public Health plans to hold a March 12 public hearing. The DPH would have to approve the proposed closure plan before the nursing home could close.

DPH spokesperson Katheleen Conti said: “Per the statute, a court would have to be petitioned to appoint a receiver if an emergency exists (defined as a situation or condition which presents imminent danger of death or serious physical harm to patients), or if a facility is operating without a license (or had its licensed denied or revoked) and the lives, health, safety or welfare of the residents cannot be adequately assured pending the full hearing and decision on the matter.”

Staff and families say the health and lives of vulnerable elderly residents are in jeopardy if the nursing home closes – and they say they are not going to let it close without a fight.

“We need someone to help us and help our residents as well because they are concerned and love it here,” Marie Colsoul, the nursing home’s director of nursing, said.

Chris Dunston, born and raised in Roxbury, said he’s fighting on behalf of his mother who lives at the nursing home. His grandmother also stayed at the nursing home, he said.

“I’m just here to say how hurtful, how traumatizing our family is,” Dunston said. “We just got a notice where they was telling us that we have to just find a place for my mother in. I literally got a call today saying that – several calls – where it was six months to a year waiting list. And I work, alongside my wife works, where we can’t do a lot of the paperwork and footwork. So we need help doing that. And, he’s not providing any type of help at all.”

“I’m just pleading that we get the help that we need,” he said. “Because I have no way of taking care of my mom. I work full-time, and she has dementia and anxiety. So I would need 24-hour care for her.”

Lynn Baptiste said the closest nursing home she contacted told her it may be 2 years before they have an opening for her father.

“So what am I going to put him, put a tent in my backyard to stay there?” she said. “What am I going to do?”

25 Investigates has been reporting on the nursing home’s money problems since December when employees went weeks without getting paid.

25 Investigates has also revealed that Francis’ base salary jumped from $189,435 in 2016 to $628,592 in 2021, according to IRS forms.

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson – who is fighting to keep the nursing home open – said she questions which state or local agencies are overseeing the nursing home’s financial management.

“How do you get here when you are on record collecting almost a million dollars a month in revenue?” she said.

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