Ownership change stops paychecks for metro nursing home workers

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HARRISONVILLE, Mo. -- Employees at five nursing facilities in the metro say they're fuming mad.

The workforce at Fundamental Healthcare recently saw their company change owners. Employees say the former corporate owner, Benchmark Healthcare, didn't pay the staff during its final two weeks of ownership.

It caught them by complete surprise. Workers at Harrisonville Healthcare showed up today to collect their paychecks -- only to find the home's previous owner, Benchmark Healthcare, had declared bankruptcy and a freeze has been placed on company banking.

That means no paychecks for employees who need them.

"It was a shock absolute shock and disbelief," Harrisonville Healthcare employee Amanda Chastain said.

Chastain and her husband, Raoul Lindo, aren't sure how they'll be able to buy groceries without a paycheck. The married couple has worked together at the home for the past three years. Since the bad news hit, Amanda says they've already needed to take out a high-interest loan just to pay their rent.

"It's not like one of us didn't get a paycheck and we could rely on the other," Chastain said. "This was 100 percent of our income."

And it isn't just paychecks these employees say they're missing. Kevin Donovan, who runs the home's kitchen, said he and others had entrusted Benchmark Healthcare to help them organize a Christmas savings fund. Now, they're told that money is frozen in court too.

"They took our children's Christmas fund that we had saved back for our children's Christmas," Donovan said. "It's more than they just stole from us. They stole from our kids."

Benchmark Healthcare is based in Chesterfield, Mo., and this isn't the first time they've been scrutinized. Missouri Case Net shows a backlog of records that stretches back to 2004, Involving charges ranging from medical malpractice to a wrongful death suit filed in 2012.

"There has been a transfer of operations from Benchmark to a new operator," Anita Kepler, Harrisonville Healthcare administrator, said while reading from a statement.

That new company is Fundamental Healthcare, which is based in Maryland. Kepler manages Harrisonville Healthcare for that company, which acquired all 11 of Benchmark's nursing homes and 1,500 employees.

"We are in the process of identifying ways we can offer support to our employees in this difficult time, including an advance on their wages," Kepler said.

Management at Harrisonville Healthcare read only from that prepared statement, and would not say when employees could expect to be paid in full.

FOX 4 has placed three calls to Benchmark Healthcare's office in Chesterfield, Mo. So far, the company hasn't called back.

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