WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — A developing story inside a Willoughby nursing home grows more somber Wednesday where at least 67 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 have died due to complications of the virus.
Watch reporter Emily Hamilton's report on this tragic turn of events on News 5 at 6 p.m.
“It’s terrible. It really is,” Sheila Tomsic said. “And, you know, it’s just like there’s nothing you can do.”
News 5 has been fielding calls, emails and messages from people concerned and outraged about the care their loved ones are receiving at Heartland of Willoughby.
News 5 spoke to Tomsic before she was told by nursing home staff to prepare for her 101-year-old mother to take her last breath at the facility.
“Until I get that phone call,” Tomsic said. “And then that’ll be it.”
Wednesday afternoon, Tomsic received the dreaded phone call that her mother, Theresa Skryantz, had taken a turn for the worst.
“And that I could go and stay in the room with Mom for how long I want,” Tomsic said.
Met with grief, Tomsic will be saying goodbye to her mother Wednesday evening as her family’s story airs on News 5 at 6 p.m.
“She’s going to be meeting the Lord soon,” Tomsic said.
Tomsic asked that News 5 move forward with reporting her family’s story Wednesday because she felt it was important to share.
Tomsic said she was informed late last week that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19 at Heartland of Willoughby after repeated attempts to speak with anyone at the facility about her mother’s condition.
“You know, to find out how my mom’s doing or so I can speak with her,” Tomsic said. “But sometimes it takes three days calling three to four times a day for Lakeside nursing to even answer.”
A spokesperson for the nursing home addressed communication with families in a written statement, stating that they are continuing to ensure that a manager is on-call to speak with relatives of residents there.
Because of visitation restrictions, Tomsic hadn’t been allowed to see her mother until receiving the phone call from a hospice nurse late Wednesday.
“They said she’s not ‘actively dying yet,’” Tomsic said. “And I’m like ‘really?’”
Tomsic doesn’t think enough was done to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 inside the facility and protect residents like her mother from contracting the virus.
“With people sick like that, it’s going to spread,” Tomsic said. “I don’t care how many precautions you take.”
Tomsic told News 5 her mother lived more than a century of good years and acknowledged that death is inevitable, but said she never anticipated this would be the final chapter of her mother’s story.
“How you’re going out, with this? I know,” Tomsic said. “I thought she would just peacefully pass in her sleep.”
The Ohio Department of Health provided the following statement several days ago when questioned about an investigation into the facility’s practices:
“ODH went in and investigated a complaint on September 10. The survey is not completed yet and therefore it is not a public record. The surveyor has 30 days after we leave the facility to write the report and send it back to the facility. Then it becomes a public record.”
Julie Beckert, a spokesperson for Heartland of Willoughby, said on Wednesday, September 16 she received correspondence from the Ohio Department of Health stating the facility was within compliance of state regulations and no deficiencies were cited during the inspection by the Ohio Department of Health on Thursday, September 10.
The Lake County General Health District provided the following statement regarding concerns from family members about procedures and mitigation of the virus at Heartland of Willoughby:
"The Lake County General Health District (LCGHD) has been working with Heartland of Willoughby since the latter part of August when Heartland began to identify concerns pertaining to Covid-19. Since this time, the facility’s staff have been active and engaged participants in communications with the LCGHD. To date Heartland has participated in an Infection Control and Assessment Response (ICAR) with the LCGHD and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), as well as an ODH site visit. An ICAR is a focused review of the infection control practices, and was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a national quality improvement initiative. The LCGHD will continue to support Heartland of Willoughby through this very challenging time, and we encourage the families and friends who have loved ones residing at Heartland of Willoughby to continue to keep the communications open with the administrative team and healthcare professionals working at this facility."