Ownership quagmire leaves nurses without paychecks - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Ownership quagmire leaves nurses without paychecks

Updated:

Luling, La. -- Some health care professionals did not receive their last two paychecks from a facility in the River Parishes and many of them are furious.

They work at Specialty Rehabilitation Hospital of Luling. Not far from the facility, several workers gathered Thursday afternoon to air their frustrations.

"We're living check to check -- my mother's on a fixed income, she's neglecting her bills now to help me try to pay my bills to stay afloat," said Tamala Triche, a licensed practical nurse.

Registered Nurse Stacey Revador-Ben is one of the charge nurses at the hospital.  "I'm the primary bread winner in my family, I'm a single mom and I have things to take care of with my household -- my house note is behind, my car note is behind," she said.

Until recently they were showing up to work, but are now staying away after not being paid for almost five weeks.

"It's hard -- it's holiday time, we have children, we have bills, you know.  You come here -- I drive 50 miles round trip here to come to work," stated Alece Charles, another licensed practical nurse at the facility.

Until last month the hospital was owned by Specialty Healthcare of Leesville, Louisiana.  FOX 8 News contacted company chairman and CEO Craig Ball, who said they sold the company to Lazarus Healthcare on October 1.

"In the three years we had the company we never missed a payroll," Ball said.

Employees we interviewed attested to that while blasting the new owners.  "We probably would be better to deal with if we had the facts," said Revador-Ben.

According to the Secretary of State's website, the registered agent for Lazarus Healthcare is Charles L. Matthews of New Iberia.  FOX 8 was unsuccessful in trying to reach Matthews or any of the other officers listed as having a role in Lazarus Healthcare.

"In this transition, payroll was actually a victim," said Chenell Barnes as she sat in an office inside the hospital. 

Barnes said she was brought in by the new owners as administrator of the hospital a few weeks ago.  But she said they almost immediately asked her to buy the hospital from them.

"Asked me to come in and to manage the hospital for them -- however in the midst of that occurring they also offered me to actually purchase this provider number, or at least this hospital.  And that's what I've done and that's what my company is in the process of doing," Barnes stated.

She said on Monday she began paying some employees out of funds from her consulting company, Grace Healthcare.

"We've apologized to our nursing staff, we've apologized to the remaining staff if they're not in nursing services. We understand completely what our obligations are and what our responsibilities are and I apologize to them," she said.

Barnes said soon all workers will get paid in full -- a promise she said she made to the labor department in response to the problems.  "It is my company's intent to meet all of our payroll obligations by November 16th," Barnes continued.

Some workers said they are not sure they want to continue working at the hospital, even if they get every penny that they are owed.

"I would like to receive some further information before I make that decision because at this point they're very untrustworthy," said Revador-Ben.

"We have not terminated anyone, we have not fired anyone," insisted Barnes. 

And Barnes said she has one immediate goal: "They've cared for our patients and they absolutely deserve to be paid for those services."

Barnes said nine or 10 of the affected workers have received one of the two checks they are owed.

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