Current temperature in Boston - 62 °
Get access to a personalized news feed, our newsletter and exclusive discounts on everything from shows to local restaurants, All for free.
Already a member? Sign in.
The Bay State Banner
The Bay State Banner

Trending Articles

In letter, Holy Cross classmate breaks with Clarence Thomas

‘Gatsby’ at ART reimagines Fitzgerald’s classic tale

A letter to a brother that I once thought I knew


Benjamin Healthcare Center hires new administrator as it works to get back on track

Avery Bleichfeld

For Delicia Mark, stepping into the administrator’s role at the Edgar P. Benjamin Healthcare Center on Mission Hill is a homecoming.

Mark, who is officially slated to enter the role May 28, got her start in healthcare facilities as a scheduler at the Edgar Benjamin in 2006, after a move to enter as the facility’s human resources director fell through at the last minute.

“When some of the staff reached out to me about the Benjamin, I said, ‘You know what, I need to come home to help them out,’” Mark said.

Her appointment is the latest step as the facility moves forward with a court-ordered receivership that ousted the center’s previous administrator, Tony Francis, amid allegations of financial mismanagement.

For the past decade, since she left the Edgar Benjamin, Mark has worked in administration at healthcare facilities, mostly in the Greater Boston area. In her most recent role, she served as executive director of the Brighton House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a position she is wrapping up to take her new role.

In applying for the role at the Mission Hill facility, she impressed a hiring team comprised of veteran staffers. Joseph Feaster, the Roxbury attorney appointed as receiver April 3, said the team was “head over heels” for Mark.

The Benjamin Healthcare Center was established in 1927 as Rest Haven Nursing Home. PHOTO: COURTESY BENJAMIN HEALTHCARE CENTER

“She was an ideal candidate that I felt comfortable with to rely upon to provide me what I need in order to [look to make the facility sustainable] and could be creative in finding some financial mechanisms,” Feaster said.

Once in her role, Mark will take over many of the day-to-day leadership responsibilities that had previously fallen on Feaster, as well as a leadership team he had put together, comprised of Leslie Joseph-Henderson, the center’s director of admissions, Marise Colsoul, director of nursing, and Dianne Wilkerson, the former state senator who now is serving as executive assistant. All three were prominent figures during the community fight for receivership.

Feaster will remain as the official point person to the Suffolk County Superior Court.

Mark said she plans to bring the experience she has amassed back to the facility where she got her start with initial goals around greater stability for staff and patients.

She cited increased support for the center’s workers as a key difference between herself and her predecessor. Under his leadership, workers at the facility sometimes went without pay or faced bounced checks, staffing shortages and inadequate supplies.

“I know that it’s been hard, but I want to be the backbone for them, to know that they have somebody standing behind them, to do right by them,” Mark said.

Maintaining and increasing the number of residents at the facility is a priority for her.

The center currently serves 70 residents but can host about 90, and new patients are arriving. During a walkthrough with state Sen. Liz Miranda on Friday, Feaster and Mark paused to greet and welcome one new resident who arrived last week.

Growing — as well as diversifying — the resident census could be an important step in keeping the center operating. Since Francis announced a contentious plan to close the center in February, whether the facility can remain open, and operations can be financially sustainable has been a lingering question.

At the time, Francis said that the decision to shutter the Mission Hill institution was due to “insurmountable financial difficulties.”

Though the closure plan that Francis filed with the state’s Department of Public Health was suspended as soon as Feaster took over, the long-term viability of the center is still up in the air. Feaster and his team are looking for new avenues to increase revenue streams as it seeks to make continued operations possible.

Part of that sustainability plan includes the possibility of expanding the facility’s role. Feaster said one of the challenges around funding the center is low payment rates from MassHealth, which make up one chunk of the center’s income.

Mark is eyeing renovations to a wing of the building that has long-sat unused. As an alternate stream of income, the space could be used for dialysis treatment or other shorter-term services.

The Edgar Benjamin also receives about $70,000 per month from Roxbury Prep, a charter school that rents the third floor of one of the building’s wings. Feaster said that the agreement is set to expire in 2025.

Since the court order put the center under receivership in April, the path has not been entirely smooth sailing for the facility, and Feaster said that the Edgar Benjamin is “not out of the woods.”

Funds have been tight and some bills for utilities and vendors at the facility continue to go unpaid. A leaky roof in the section of the building utilized by Roxbury Prep Charter School precipitated a $20,000 repair, adding to the center’s financial troubles. Feaster is also still facing lingering financial effects from Francis, the former administrator who was forced out with the receivership.

In April, a $206,000 payment was pulled from the center’s Rockland Trust bank account to pay an American Express bill on a card that Feaster was told only Francis could cancel. On Friday, Feaster was served with a wage-an-hour claim by Francis’ attorneys for the former administrator’s last paycheck that Feaster didn’t pay — the latest in a series of “suspect” problems he and his team have been uncovering.

He said, however, that he is ready to face challenges brought by the former administration.

“If you want to play a hardball game, you got the right person on this side,” Feaster said.

Even with all of the pitfalls, there has been progress. About a week after taking leadership of the Edgar Benjamin, Feaster made sure all staff were receiving their paychecks.

In the last five months of Francis’ tenure, the facility failed to pay staff repeatedly, the last instance of which happened days after the suit requesting a receiver was filed in March. This was a defining factor in convincing the attorney general and Department of Public Health to sign onto the receivership petition after months of declining to get involved.

Feaster ironed out details with ADP, the payroll vendor that stopped working with the facility under Francis’ leadership due to non-payment. For now, Feaster is left signing paychecks by hand, but ADP is slated to pick duties back up starting in July.

Feaster and his team have made efforts to make the center more welcoming as well. The Edgar Benjamin’s lobby has been refurbished — now it’s brighter and more inviting, a change that Joseph-Henderson, the facility’s director of admissions, said makes a big difference in mood.

Mark said that updates and touch-ups to patient areas are next. But those changes can take longer, especially as patients must be moved around to make updates in individual rooms.

The clean-up isn’t just aesthetic — morale is up too, Feaster said, though he is also leading with a firm hand. At a meeting Friday, which he called a “heart-to-heart,” he laid down the gauntlet, reminding staff that they have to show up on time and follow all the center’s policies.

“I grew up with the cowboys and stuff,” he said. “I told them, ‘You can call me Wyatt Earp; this is Dodge City; I’m here to clean up the town.’”

Mark, too, listed growing and maintaining employee morale as a priority as she enters her new role. And it was an ongoing change that Miranda noted as well during her tour of the center, saying that the energy at the Edgar Benjamin is different than it was under Francis’ tenure.

During Department of Public Health hearings, family and guardians of residents alleged Francis didn’t know the names of patients at the facility, but Feaster, as he made rounds during a walkthrough of the facility with Miranda, paused to greet people hanging out in the hallways or sitting in their rooms, passing along messages and picking up half-finished conversations.

And as she prepares to enter the facility’s top role, Mark has a head start. During the walkthrough, she also paused to greet patients some of whom, to her, were familiar faces: long-term residents whose stay at the Edgar Benjamin stretches from before she left about a decade ago.

Work to clean up the center’s appearance remains on the to-do list, including some basics like having the windows washed.

Wilkerson, in her role as executive assistant at the Edgar Benjamin, is working to organize a “Christmas in July” fundraiser with local businesses with a focus on maintenance goals like replacing a stove in the kitchen.

“We want to make things more comfortable for our residents,” Feaster said.

The official court order put Feaster in charge of the facility for 90 days, but he said he is ready to settle in for a longer haul if necessary, pointing to his last experience as a receiver, where he took over and headed the closure at Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center in 2013, a process that took close to a decade.

Feaster said he was trying to make sure the facility will see its 100th birthday in 2027, a goal that has been top-of-mind for Feaster and other supporters of the center since the push for a receivership started. It was a sentiment he shared with a patient while walking through the facility.

“We’re still here and we’re getting stronger each day,” he told her.