‘I’m scared’: Compass Medical didn’t warn Mass. of closures and layoffs, 25 Investigates finds

In a video posted Thursday morning on Twitter, a woman who identifies herself as a Compass Medical nurse said she was soon having her last day with the company after 26 years.

“We got to go in today to ‘button up,’” Kim Jankowski said. “I’m wearing T-shirt and jeans today. I’m scared, really scared. This is all I know.”

Jankowski later said the hardest part was leaving patients behind as she prepared for Friday – her last day: “As far as this nurse, I’m not sure what I’m doing yet. A lot of decisions to make.”

Jankowski was one of hundreds of workers left stranded when Compass abruptly announced Wednesday the closure of its six medical facilities south of Boston.

The company employed over 500 people and served over 100,000 patients in southeastern Massachusetts as of 2017, according to Suffolk County court filings by Compass that year.

A statement on Compass’ website cites “a steady stream of challenges.”

Last October, a Suffolk County jury found Compass committed fraud against Steward Health Care – but Compass has yet to pay a $16.4 million judgment to Steward. A spokesperson for Steward said the lawsuit has “nothing to do with them going bankrupt.”

The closure of Compass Medical will further jeopardize access to health care in southeastern Massachusetts, where Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital remains shuttered likely until the year’s end following a February fire.

The physician-owned health organization’s closure is also a blow for hundreds of workers hit with the loss of their livelihoods.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification - or WARN Act – requires employers to provide advance notice of mass layoffs.

Early notice of mass layoffs ensures the state has time to reach out to impacted workers – and that employees have time to prepare.

But 25 Investigates has found that Compass Medical did not provide any notice to the state ahead of the abrupt closure announced Wednesday.

That’s according to spokespeople for the office of Democratic Gov. Maura Healey, the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the state Department of Public Health.

State Rep. Tackey Chan, a Democrat of Quincy and House Chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, said Compass’ apparent failure to issue a WARN act notice is concerning.

“As a major employer, they should be contacting the state’s department of labor,” Chan told Investigative Reporter Ted Daniel.

Under certain circumstances, Chan says large employers are required by law to provide at least 60 days notice before mass layoffs under the WARN act

“The company should be required to timely notify their patients well in advance of a closure,” he said.

The civil penalty for failing to provide WARN Act notice to a local government entity is $500 for each day of violation.

“The penalty may be avoided if the employer satisfies its liability to each affected employee within three weeks after the closing,” according to a federal guide to the WARN Act.

And WARN Act notice can also apply in cases of bankruptcy.

The WARN Act applies “when the employer knew about the closing or mass layoff before filing bankruptcy and should have given notice but seeks to use bankruptcy to avoid giving notice,” according to the federal guide.

Workers and governmental units can bring individual or class action lawsuits over potential WARN Act violations against employers in federal court.

On Thursday, Healey stressed that Compass Medical is a private physician’s group not subject to Department of Public Health licensure.

“This is a physician’s group, so it’s not actually licensed by the state,” she said.

When asked if the state will investigate, Healey referred reporters to the Office of the State Attorney General, Andrea Joy Campbell, a Democrat.

Campbell is urging the public to contact her office with any concerns about the closure by clicking this link or by calling 617-727-2200.

Compass Medical’s website directs patients needing help with prescription refills or test results to call their main phone line at 508-350-2000.

But when Boston 25 reporters called that number on Thursday afternoon, the phone line dropped after telling callers to hold on for assistance.

Matthew Kitsos, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, said the MassHire Rapid Response team is “actively working to reach the employer and impacted employees to offer onsite services.”

The state also offers MassHire Career Centers located in every major city to help connect people with individual assistance, job fairs, workshops and job openings.

Steward plans to hold a job fair to help Compass Medical clinicians and employees find new jobs in the community, according to a Steward spokesperson.

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

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