A state agency is investigating the former administrator of Montefiore in connection with falsified COVID-19 testing at the Beachwood nursing home.

The process of investigating Ariel Hyman’s licensure could take up to a year, according to Deb Veley, executive director of the Ohio Board of Executives of Long Term Services and Supports in Columbus.

“We do have a complaint and we are investigating,” Veley told the Cleveland Jewish News Nov. 13.

Hyman, Tina R. King, the former director of nursing, and Marie Gelle, the former assistant director of nursing, were terminated following falsified COVID-19 testing on a single unit in late October where there were 34 cases of COVID-19 at Montefiore.

The two nurses have placed their registered nurse licensure on inactive status with the Ohio Board of Nursing.

Tina R. King

Tina R. King's registered nurse licensure is on inactive status with the Ohio Board of Nursing.

Marie Gelle

Marie Gelle's registered nurse licensure is on inactive status with the Ohio Board of Nursing.

Menorah Park President and CEO Jim Newbrough, who oversees Montefiore since a July affiliation between the two Beachwood nursing homes, wrote in an Oct. 29 memorandum to families and residents, “We are in the process of notifying the appropriate state authorities,” and “we will fully cooperate with any investigation...”

Veley said in her eight years with the agency, this is the first time an investigation has involved Montefiore.

“I’m not really allowed to share anything about the complaint while it’s under investigation,” she said. “As far as I’m aware of, there are other agencies investigating as well that we don’t want to interfere with, so we’re going to be investigating as coordinated with these other agencies.”

She said the number of complaints the agency investigates in a year varies.

“Complaints can be nothing for a few months,” she said. “And then we can have a spike. It really varies. We have had a few complaints since COVID. I can’t necessarily say that they’re COVID-related.”

Veley said the board could take no action or any of the following steps: fine, censure, warning, suspension or revocation. Hyman, who was administrator of Montefiore since July, will be given an opportunity for a hearing, she said.

The agency’s mission, according to its website, is to develop, adopt, impose and enforce standards for Ohio long-term services and support leaders.

Hyman’s nursing home administrator license is listed as “active” on the state’s website, with an expiration date of Oct. 1, 2021.

Holly Fischer, chief legal counsel of the Ohio Board of Nursing, confirmed that both King and Gelle requested to have their licenses placed on inactive status as of Oct. 30. She said the board could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. “This means they are not authorized to practice nursing in Ohio,” she wrote in a Nov. 12 email to the CJN. “I am not able to provide information about their decisions.”

Fischer said reactivating a license would require an application to the Ohio Board of Nursing and a board review.

“Whether and when an application would be submitted by either individual is unknown,” Fischer wrote. “If an application is submitted the board would review any outstanding issues at that time, e.g. any criminal court action.”

As to whether King and Gelle can practice out of state, Fischer wrote, “A license to practice would need to be held/issued by the licensing body in the state of practice.”

On the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website, the Ohio license status for both King and Gelle reads “No” under the term “Active” and “Contact Board of Nursing” under the term “License Status.”

“While our policy is not to comment on personnel matters, I do want to reiterate we continue to hold ourselves to a very high standard of care,” Beth Silver, director of public relations and marketing for Menorah Park, told the CJN in a Nov. 13 email. “When our investigation showed that three individuals failed to meet that standard, we terminated their employment.”

While Silver would not confirm Gelle and King were the employees terminated, a Montefiore newsletter confirmed their identities.

In addition, a person answering the telephone at Montefiore on Nov. 13 said King no longer worked there, and a person answering the telephone at Montefiore on Nov. 16 said Gelle no longer worked there.

Gelle’s promotion to assistant director of nursing was announced in Montefiore’s 2020 winter family newsletter dated January through April 2020.

“Congratulations to Marie Gelle, RN, (previously nurse manager for post-hospital care), who has been promoted to Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON) at Montefiore,” the newsletter stated. “Marie will continue to manage the Myers 1 rehab unit and has assumed additional responsibilities within the nursing administration. Marie has been a tremendous asset to our post-hospital and short-term rehab department and nursing leadership in her more than two years at Montefiore. Marie brings 27 years and eight years of nursing management to this new position.”

In a section called “Meet the Team,” in the winter 2016 family newsletter, King’s hiring as director of nursing was announced.

“Tina King has been appointed as the director of nursing (DON) at Montefiore,” the newsletter read. “In this role, Tina will lead all clinical operations and nursing administration for the nursing home and The Willensky Residence Memory Care Assisted Living. Tina comes to Montefiore with an exceptional clinical background and strong experience as DON at high-quality facilities in the northern Akron area. She is a proven nursing leader with expertise in staff development, quality improvement and management.”

According to her Oct. 2, 2017, registered nurse application on file with the Ohio Board of Nursing,

Gelle, 51, whose last known address was in Northfield, has an associate degree of applied science from Fortis College in Cuyahoga Falls. She was a licensed practical nurse at the time. She did not specify her place of employment and was not required to do so, Fischer said.

King, 49, whose last known address was in Tallmadge, reported in her Sept. 23, 2019, RN renewal application on file with the Ohio Board of Nursing that she was the assistant director of nursing or director of nursing at Montefiore. She said she had a baccalaureate nursing degree and that she was initially licensed in 2004.

Neither King nor Gelle could be reached for comment through email addresses and telephone numbers they supplied to the state.

The Ohio Department of Health is conducting an investigation of the situation at Montefiore for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that is expected to be finished by Nov. 30, according to Melanie Amato, press secretary at ODH.

Samara Knight, executive vice president of civic engagement and community outreach for Service Employees International 1199, told the CJN Nov. 6 that management at Montefiore failed to comply with state, federal and local laws regarding the health and safety of employees, according to two identical class-action grievances filed with the human resources department. The union represents more than

500 workers at Montefiore and Menorah Park, which have 233 and 355 beds, respectively.

Newbrough wrote of the situation in his memorandum to residents and their families, saying that in mid-October residents on a unit were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

“Tests were conducted, but the results were negative,” Newbrough wrote. “After rerunning the tests, several residents tested positive. Fearing that we might be facing a widespread outbreak on our campus, we immediately called in resources from throughout the county and the state to assist us. We were able to retest all the residents in question, confirm positive diagnoses in 34 residents and transfer them to a separate unit for special care.”

Further, he wrote, “I am very sorry to report that after conducting a number of interviews with staff, confirming lab results and reviewing patient records, our investigator concluded that Montefiore’s director of nursing and the assistant director of nursing actually submitted false tests, thereby failing to follow official protocols and procedures related to COVID-19 and failing to follow nursing standards of practice as it related to conducting the tests. I am also sorry to tell you that Montefiore’s administrator failed to oversee the situation appropriately.”

This is a developing story.

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