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State is asked to investigate company that is closing local nursing homes

Lawmakers are asking state Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate a nursing home operator that is closing local facilities.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file 2917
Lawmakers are asking state Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate a nursing home operator that is closing local facilities.

Eight state legislators are asking the Massachusetts attorney general to investigate a health care company that plans to close four nursing homes and an assisted living facility in Greater Boston, accusing it of misusing state money at the facilities it plans to shut down.

“The question that needs to be answered is, ‘Did Kindred lobby for and receive state funding while they were planning for the closure of nursing homes?’ ” said Representative Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat and one of the signers of the letter to Attorney General Maura Healey. “The public has a right to know. It’s their money.”

The letter alleges that senior executives may have mismanaged state funding intended to pay wages and benefits for some of the lowest-paid nursing home workers. The company denies the allegations.

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In all nursing homes statewide, part of the $35.5 million set aside in 2016 to boost those low-wage workers’ compensation instead went to some higher-paid staff, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and social workers, according to a December report from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

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In a phone interview on Monday, Collins suggested that, in addition to the possibility that state dollars were used to pad the values of Kindred facilities, the money could have been used “to increase salaries and bonuses for executives.”

Healey’s office has received the legislators’ letter and is reviewing it, according to Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for Healey.

A spokeswoman for Kentucky-based Kindred said the company had complied with state regulations regarding the money allocated for direct-service staff and would “cooperate fully” if Healey launches an investigation.

“We deny that these dollars were used to increase the projected worth of any facility,” said the spokeswoman, Susan E. Moss, in an e-mailed statement.

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Kindred announced last month it will shutter nursing homes in South Boston, Canton, Dedham, and Needham, as well as a Needham assisted living complex.

Eighteen days later, Kindred reported that it was being sold to a consortium of three companies: Humana Inc., TPG Capital, and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, for about $4.1 billion in cash, ensuring a sizable payout to stockholders.

Moss said closing the facilities was “a strategic decision” that Kindred made “with regret . . . after much deliberation.”

“This has not been an easy decision for any of the parties or individuals involved. We have served the community for many years and it has been an honor and a privilege,” she said.

Moss pledged that the company would work with each of its residents and their families to provide a smooth transition into new facilities.

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She said Kindred has assured those affected “that we are committed to continuing to provide high-quality care and services to our residents,” and the company will take steps to ensure that “residents experience as little disruption to their lives as possible.”

Collins said, though, that some of his constituents have come to him with concerns about Kindred’s treatment of patients as it prepares for the closures.

“Not just concerns on state funding and the moves by executives to close the facilities,” he said, “but also how they close the facilities — the announcement in December, followed by immediate relocation of patients, some without consent. It’s disturbing.”

The Massachusetts facilities set for closure provide jobs for more than 600 direct-care workers, according to the legislators’ letter, as well as “long-term care for some of our most vulnerable constituents.”

The state Department of Public Health will oversee the closures, the legislators said, but they are nonetheless “concerned that patients, their families, and our communities may have been negatively impacted by the callous and calculated tactics employed by Kindred.”

Collins said, “We want to know how the public’s money was spent on these facilities and when these decisions were being made.”

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story did not specify what type of employees received increased compensation from the state.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.