East Boston Patients Urge AG to Investigate and Reform

Health Disparities, Racial Justice

As Investigations Into East Boston Neighborhood Health Center Continue, Community Demands Reforms To Stop Discriminatory, Substandard Care

MA Attorney General and Department of Public Health Investigating Harrowing Patient Reports Of Misdiagnosis, Delayed Care 

In a letter sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Department of Public Health today, Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) and Centro Presente formally proposed reforms to rectify discriminatory and substandard medical care by the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC).  EBNHC is under investigation based on complaints of discriminatory medical treatment of immigrants, particularly women and patients on MassHealth insurance.

“We have spent countless hours talking to affected community members about what reforms are needed at EBNHC,” said Patricia Montes, Executive Director of Centro Presente.  “The reforms we present today come directly from community members who have experienced the Health Center’s failings firsthand.”

Reforms detailed in the letter include:

  • Training – All EBNHC staff, from healthcare workers to administrative staff, should receive cultural-competency and trauma-informed care training, specifically relating to issues of gender-based violence and the root causes of migration from Central America.  
  • Mental Health Services – EBNHC should increase mental health providers at EBNHC.  
  • Immigrant Health Center – EBNHC should create a dedicated Center for Immigrant Health to provide culturally-competent, quality healthcare to the immigrant community. 
  • Third-Party Review of Treatment Protocols – EBNHC’s treatment protocols should be reviewed by outside experts and reformed to guard against misdiagnosis and substandard care.
  • Translation and Interpretation Services – EBNHC should improve its translation and interpretation services, to ensure that language does not stand as a barrier to quality healthcare.  
  • Wait Times – EBNHC must reduce waiting times, especially for emergency room services.  

The March 2022 complaint that triggered the ongoing investigations by the Attorney General and the Department of Public Health documented substandard care by EBNHC — including failure to perform tests or lab work and misdiagnosis — that has resulted in worsened medical conditions, prolonged hospital stays, late diagnoses of cancer, and even death. 

“The reforms that the community proposes today are the minimum that is necessary for EBNHC to come into compliance with laws that forbid healthcare providers from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, sex, or receipt of MassHealth insurance,” said Mirian Albert, Staff Attorney of Lawyers for Civil Rights.  “We are deeply grateful for the Attorney General’s leadership in investigating EBNHC and hope that the reforms proposed today will provide a path forward to quality, non-discriminatory healthcare for all those whom the Health Center serves.” 

EBNHC is the largest community health center in Massachusetts and one of the largest in the nation. The health clinic is the main access point for healthcare services for many individuals within Boston’s immigrant communities. 

Centro Presente and Lawyers for Civil Rights’ letter proposing reforms is attached and can be found here. Disponible en español.

The original Request for a Joint Investigation to the Attorney General and the Department of Health can be found here.