Winnipeg Jewish seniors care home under cloud of controversy
Friday, 09 September 2011 20:30

imgBy Rebeca Kuropatwa


For the Jewish Free Press


Winnipeg – The Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre (better known by its previous name “The Sharon Home”) has recently been operating under a heavy cloud of controversy, with serious abuse allegations being made by the centre’s residents’ families and a newly released provincial report investigating the workings of the city’s only Jewish, kosher nursing home.


( Marsha Palansky and her mother Lillian Peck, were among the five families who lodged complaints with the Manitoba government against the Winnipeg Jewish community’s Simkin Centre senior’s care facility )

Back in 2002, the centre relocated to a new south Winnipeg location (with the facility having been completed in 2008), replacing the old north Winnipeg Sharon Home (built in 1912).

The provincial report was put together by Manitoba’s Protection of Persons in Care Office (PPCO), and was made public at a Simkin Centre meeting on July 25.  Word of issues with care have been entering the public domain as long ago as last fall, when 93-year-old centre resident, Lillian Peck, was transferred to a hospital, suffering from severe, untreated bed sores.  Peck died soon after, and her daughter, Marsha Palansky, has alleged that Peck’s condition was caused by the centre’s negligent staff.

Early in 2011, Palansky along with four other families with centre-residing relatives urged the government to investigate the facility.

According to Harriet Berkal Sarbit, spokesperson for the five families, and daughter of the late Rabbi Louis Berkal, long time Shaarey Zedek Synagogue cantor and assistant rabbi who was a centre resident during the last year of his life in 2009, the centre’s administration wouldn’t meet with the families as a group.

The centre’s website reads, “The Simkin Centre ensures that quality of life…and fulfillment remain at the core of what the centre is all about...We work together…to ensure the social, spiritual, and physical needs of the residents are being met.”

But with these recent allegations becoming public, a very different picture is being painted of the centre’s care.

In Berkal Sarbit’s view, the centre’s board has created a “culture of fear and intimidation” at the centre, one that is harmful to the residents and alienating of their families.  At one point Berkal Sarbit recalled having threatened the centre with going to the CBC because a nurse was trying to “ram medication” down her protesting father’s throat.  As a response, the centre sent her a letter threatening to ban her from visiting her father.


Apparently, Berkal Sarbit is not alone.  Other families questioning the care of their loved ones have been threatened with being banned from the centre and some have even been barred.

Finding no way to get their message across to the centre’s administration, the families approached the Manitoba government, which Berkal Sarbit said has responded very positively and with support. (Specifically, the Ministry of Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority [WRHA]), which oversee Winnipeg nursing homes).

As things stand, the WRHA and the PPCO conducted investigations concerning Peck’s care and treatment, and the province is conducting a performance-standards review of the centre and an outside consultant is looking into how its administration deals with family members.

Manitoba’s recent PPCO report supports Palansky’s claims.  A few weeks ago, they issued a final report finding that “the allegation of physical abuse by neglect is founded.”

Berkal Sarbit said her father developed an ear infection while at the centre, but the nurses insisted it was an ingrown hair.  She was left with no alternative but to take him to a specialist, who immediately hospitalized her father as his ear infection had become septic.

CEO of the Simkin Centre, Sandra Delorme, has reportedly insisted that Peck’s death was “an isolated incident.”  Shortly after her death, the centre disciplined six nursing staff responsible for her care, and one nurse is no longer working there.  The centre also did an internal review and released a 14-page action plan with 39 quality care improvement recommendations.

According to Real Cloutier, chief operating officer of WRHA, the provincial review was ordered on top of the centre’s action plan because “the families...weren’t confident that there was going to be ongoing accountability for implementation of the plan” by the board.  The WRHA also ordered a leadership review to address issues not covered by the full standards review, like governance and management.  Cloutier noted “significant issues with communication” at the centre and said the leadership review will assess these issues and determine if “the governance model impedes the issue engagement.”

Berkal Sarbit has called for there being centre board member elections.  To date, all board members have been appointed which include few, if any, members with centre-residing family.  The July 25 meeting, according to Berkal Sarbit, was the first town hall meeting the administration and board ever held.

In her view, new administrative leadership is direly needed at the Simkin Centre, noting that she and the four families are calling for the centre’s CEO, Sandra Delorme, to resign.

“We don’t want to close down the Sharon Home,” said Berkal Sarbit.  “We want to elevate it to the same standards as Baycrest [in Toronto] and Louis Brier [a Jewish 

nursing home in Vancouver].

“I think they need some new blood on the board and new ways of looking at things.  The home has some really good qualities.  It’s a Yiddish home.  It’s a kosher home.  I just want to hear [about] some really good care happening our family can have a great quality of life.”

The Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre’s entire budget (of $9 million each year) is WRHA-financed on a contractual basis.



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