BEACHWOOD, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Health’s investigation into COVID-19 protocols at Menorah Park’s Montefiore nursing home found that three staff members conspired to submit false COVID-19 testing samples to ensure that the tests would come back negative—even though residents were exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus and potentially exposing other residents and staff members.
The investigation into the nursing home was initially brought to light by Cleveland Jewish News.
Kayla Leubitz’s mom Ronna Leubitz had been a resident of Montefiore for 10 years. She moved into the nursing home in her 50s due to her multiple sclerosis and other health issues.
“She was a really good person and she had a big heart,” said Leubitz.
Leubitz said when the pandemic hit, due to her mom’s health issues, they were both concerned but not panicked. They trusted the care her mother received at Menorah Park the 10 years she had been there.
“I never had any other reason to doubt what they were doing,” she said. “There was never a reason to be concerned about where she was living and the environment that she was living in.”
The state health department’s investigation revealed that residents of Montefiore’s Mandel Unit 3 began to show COVID-19 symptoms in mid October. But the Oct. 13 test of 34 residents returned 33 negative results. Menorah Park’s internal investigation and the state’s probe showed that employees falsified those tests, resulting in the termination of Montefiore’s administrator, director of nursing and assistant director of nursing.
Leubitz said her mom received multiple negative COVID-19 test results during the course of the pandemic and while she said her mom was not a Mandel 3 resident, her mom reported her last test felt a bit different—a test she received only after news of the falsified testing came to light.
“Mom mentioned and took a step back and said 'maybe they weren’t testing me properly,'” Leubitz said. “I don’t think they’re performing the tests correctly. I don’t think they’re going up the nose as much as they should.”
On Thursday, Nov. 5, that last test came back positive and Leubitz got the news that her mom was moving to the COVID-19 wing of the nursing home. The next day she was moved to the hospital.
“Next thing I know I’m getting a phone call on Friday from the nursing home that the doctor took a look at her and thought she needed to go to the hospital and that there was nothing more they could do presently at the nursing home,” she said.
Things went from bad to worse, and fast. On Saturday, Nov. 7, the doctor told Kayla her mom wasn’t going to make it.
“All of her vital organs were just shutting down. I had to make the difficult decision, that no child ever wants to make for her parents, ok pull it,” she said.
It was too fast for Leubitz to even say goodbye to her mom, who was 61 years old.
"I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t go to the nursing home. I couldn’t go to the hospital to be with her and she was all by herself and I think that’s the hardest part for me, as her child, is that she was alone.”
Now, she wants answers. The first question she has is how long did her mom have COVID-19?
“After all these months of supposedly testing negative and, all the sudden, she tested positive and then she was gone within 48-72 hours,” she explained. “Something in my gut tells me she may have had it for longer.”
She also wants to know how her mom got it in the first place if everyone who was positive was isolated.
“If it was due to negligence, if it was due to not following protocol, or falsifying tests, whatever the case may be, however my mom got it, I just want someone to answer to it.”
The state has imposed a plan of correction for Montefiore, including continued education and new COVID-19 protocol. But for Leubitz, it’s too little, too late.
“She didn’t deserve this and this wasn’t supposed to happen this way,” she said. “I miss her. I’m always going to miss her.”
News 5 reached out to Menorah Park for comment and received the following statement:
Menorah Park is deeply interested in the outcome of the state’s investigation into the testing issue we discovered in October and reported to authorities.We are now cooperating in the investigations arising from our self-reports. Because of this, we are unable to provide any further comments at this time.When matters are finalized and become public, we will be happy to provide our response at that time.