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RoxComp’s closing leaves employees out in the cold

Howard Manly | 3/20/2013, 9:18 a.m.
Former RoxComp CEO Anita Crawford. (Banner archives)

Ghislaine Hernandez says she has been patient with her employers at the beleaguered Roxbury Comprehensive Health Center.

Hernandez, 54, an adult services caregiver, has worked at RoxComp for the last 15 years. She hasn’t been paid since January, and based on what she has been told at recent staff meetings, she doesn’t know when to expect the nearly $5,000 she is owed.

“I’ve been very patient,” she said.

Hernandez is just one of the many employees at the health center who were told in recent weeks that the center was closed. Hernandez said that they were told to clear out their offices on Monday and many were seen carrying plants and files to awaiting cars in the employees’ parking lot.

Though officially “closed,” the center still bustled with activity on Monday as a staff member stood at the front door to answer questions from antsy clients.

Since 1968, RoxComp has provided health services to countless community residents. But within the last six months, the center has been the subject of state and federal investigations, and its controversial CEO Anita Crawford stepped down.

RoxComp’s Board Chairman Dr. Keith Crawford (no relation) conceded significant financial problems, including missing payroll, and suspended clinical operations last month. In a prepared statement, Dr. Crawford cited a need “to ensure patient health and safety” while the agency confronts “challenging funding issues.”

“This is a difficult step to take,” Dr. Crawford said at the time, “but one we believe is necessary to preserve the core mission of RoxComp for the long term.”

 The long-term future for RoxComp is not bright. Last summer, Anita Crawford stood tall in her defense of charges revealed in a series of letters from employees that portrayed a dismal picture of operations at the center.

The damaging letters written by medical personnel at RoxComp detailed financial problems ranging from the loss of “significant grants” that helped pay for medical and psychological programs, to an almost chronic shortage of medical equipment, paper towels and toilet paper. In some cases, the letters alleged, the center had no hot water.

Anita Crawford remained steadfast. “None of the letters,” she said at the time, “accuse me of stealing money or running a center that is delivering poor health care.”

She was right about one thing. No one has accused her of stealing money. But in recent months, the state Department of Public Health has forced the center to close its laboratory, and cited a list of shortcomings that included mislabeled lab samples, use of expired medical supplies and failing to comply with various Medicaid and Medicare regulations.

The state also cancelled a $241,500 grant for HIV/AIDS testing in its HIV/AIDS program. Earlier this month, the center’s doctors refused to see patients because of reports that RoxComp’s medical malpractice insurance had not been paid.

The series of letters were sent last summer to RoxComp’s board of directors, the state Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and blame the poor management on Anita Crawford.

A letter dated Feb. 24, 2012 informed RoxComp senior management that the medical center’s supply shortage “has significantly affected our ability to accurately diagnose patients, determine severity of disease, develop treatment plans and treat patients.”

The letter also stated that the center lacked supplies necessary to stabilize patients in an emergency situation. “We are professionally responsible for providing a standard of care that gives us the capacity to make triage and referral decisions,” the letter stated.   

In another letter asking for a meeting with the board of directors on or before June 29, 2012, an unnamed RoxComp staff member said the professional staff had concerns about “the lack of transparency, the lack of growth both in the number of patients we serve and in programs and services.”

Detailing the loss of several “significant grants” and the increased scrutiny from both “federal, state and local agencies,” the letter writer stated that “the staff understands that RoxComp cannot continue to exist and function …We have lost faith in the CEO and the senior management team.”