Facing possible revocation of his administrator’s license, former Montefiore Administrator Ariel Hyman testified that a call from two nurses about alleged COVID-19 testing falsification led him to initiate an inquiry.
The actions eventually triggered an investigation by the Beachwood nursing home during which he changed his story multiple times, leading to his termination. It also led to the firing of two nurses, a criminal investigation and damage to the reputation of the nursing home.
Hyman testified before the Ohio Board of Executives of Long-Term Services and Supports Aug. 30 at a two-day virtual hearing before hearing officer Linda Mosbacher, who will recommend revocation, suspension and/or sanctions to the BELTSS board, which will vote about any possible discipline.
Hyman, who was fired Oct. 27, 2020, from the Beachwood nursing home, is accused of seven counts violating Ohio Revised Code and/or Ohio Administrative Code, including incompetence, untrustworthiness, dishonest practices or irresponsibility, fraud or deceit, and being unfit or incompetent.
Tina King, who was director of nursing, and Marie Gelle, who was assistant director of nursing, like Hyman, are under criminal investigation and are facing potential revocation of their nursing licenses. They testified under subpoena that they completed the tests properly on Oct. 13, 2020. King and Gelle were fired Oct. 29, 2020.
Twenty-two residents on Mandel 3 unit tested positive on Oct. 17, following 32 negative tests on Oct. 13 administered by King and Gelle.
About 12 wrongful death lawsuits were filed in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas naming Hyman as a defendant based on the alleged COVID testing falsification. One lawsuit has been settled. King and Gelle have filed a wrongful termination suit against defendants including Menorah Park, which affiliated with Montefiore July 1, 2020.
The Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 hearing also focused on Menorah Park’s investigation following Oct. 19 reports Hyman received from Erinn Showers, LPN charge nurse, and Patty Duplago, nurse manager of Mandel 3 alleging that COVID-19 tests on Oct. 13 weren’t done or weren’t handled properly by King and Gelle.
The hearing centered on conversations and interviews Hyman had with King and Gelle on Oct. 13; with Jamie Herbst, vice president of human resources of Menorah Park, and Richard Schwalberg, then-chief operating officer of Menorah Park, on Oct. 19; as well as with Schwalberg on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21; and finally an Oct. 22 interview with Janet Craven, director of compliance of Menorah Park.
On Oct. 13, Hyman went to King’s office at about 6:30 p.m. That day, the Ohio Department of Health arrived for an inspection, or survey, of Montefiore. King, who along with Gelle and Schwalberg, testified under subpoena, and said Hyman first asked about the survey, then about the COVID tests.
“I answered him like I always did,” King testified Aug. 31. “There aren’t going to be any positives. We’re going to be OK.”
King said she answered in that manner “just to be a cheerleader, keeping everyone’s morale up.”
But Hyman testified Aug. 30, “I think I recall Tina had winked her eye,”
James Wakley, assistant attorney general, asked King, “Did you reply to Mr. Hyman with a wink?”
“No,” King testified.
Any samples for COVID-19 tests would have been sent to Cleveland Clinic-Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights lab for testing earlier, King said.
Hyman testified that when he received the Oct. 19 phone calls alleging the problems with COVID-19 testing, he reviewed videotape from Oct. 13 to try to verify that testing had been done Oct. 13, and told Herbst about the allegation.
He testified he was “stressed and panicked” after receiving that report.
“We had already had residents that had come back testing positive,” Hyman testified. “We were trying to figure out how to isolate them. The merger with Menorah Park had been a disaster pretty much since day 1. That had been a stress point all along. Montefiore felt that we had little support. We were utilizing tremendous amount of agency staff. … The confluence of all of these things really made things difficult for me.”
Herbst testified Aug. 30 that Hyman came to her office and said, “he was probably about to ruin my day.”
She testified that she stopped him in mid-sentence and called Schwalberg to her office and Hyman then denied knowledge of the alleged testing falsification.
On Oct. 20, Hyman called Schwalberg at home at night and admitted he had prior knowledge.
Hyman was “distraught,” Schwalberg testified.
The two spoke again the morning of Oct. 21 in Schwalberg’s office.
“To the best of my recollection, he told me that he was aware of testing issues on Oct. 13,” Schwalberg testified.
Hyman told Schwalberg that he saw boxes of test swabs in King’s office on Oct. 13 and that she winked at him when she said the tests would not be positive.
Schwalberg testified that Hyman quoted King as saying, “‘Because with ODH in house, we’re not, quote, going to have any positive results.’”
Schwalberg said that Hyman told him he then ordered King to send off the tests.
Hyman did not deny telling Schwalberg this, but testified that King did not say this, and that he had not ordered her to send off tests.
In Menorah Park’s investigation, Craven interviewed Hyman, Showers, Duplago, King and Gelle. Craven recommended suspension of Hyman, King and Gelle, which took place Oct. 22, the same day she returned her report.
Michael Hyman, Ariel Hyman’s father, and Talia Hyman, Ariel Hyman’s wife, both testified that Ariel Hyman has a history of anxiety and depression.
The hearing is expected to continue at a date to be determined with testimony from an expert witness.
This is a developing story.