WINNIPEG — The ongoing saga of the Simkin Centre – also known as the Sharon Home – Winnipeg’s longtime Jewish nursing home, seems to be taking a more positive turn following the Nov. 25 release of a new report by consultant Peter Kafka that focuses on board accountability and staff management.
“Peter Kafka clearly understands our situation and our community,” said Jonathan Kroft, a former Jewish Federation of Winnipeg president and new Simkin Centre board member who has been designated to speak for the board. “Our board has unanimously accepted all of his recommendations in principle.”
Harriet Berkal Sarbit also voiced her group’s approval of Kafka’s report. She’s the spokesperson for a group of families who have made public their concerns about cases of poor care for Simkin Centre residents.
The controversy was touched off about a year ago following the death of Lilyan Peck, a 93-year-old resident of the home, shortly after she was transferred from the home to a hospital, where she was found to be suffering from severe, untreated bed sores.
“We feel vindicated by this report,” Berkal Sarbit said.
Kafka has been CEO of the Louis Brier Home, Vancouver’s Jewish nursing home, for the past eight years. He was asked by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to study accountability and staff management at the Simkin Centre. His report is based on a number of on-site visits and interviews with stakeholders in September and October.
In examining the operation of the Simkin board, Kafka described a closed shop where there are no criteria for board membership or term limits. He recommended maximum term limits, clear nomination guidelines that open the board to participation from a wider range of community members, an orientation program for board members and annual evaluations of board members.
Kafka painted a picture of poor staff morale brought about by a combination of factors, including ongoing negative publicity over the past year, unrealistic expectations from some of the families, “a lack of perceived leadership” and a “lack of trust” among some members of the staff.
He recommended holding regular staff meetings and conducting annual staff satisfaction surveys. He also urged managers to circulate among staff, patients and families in order to improve access and communications.
“While most families are satisfied with the care and support their family members receive,” Kafka wrote, “lack of access to and lack of visibility of senior staff was a common theme. Many families did not feel welcomed by the staff and felt the staff resented their involvement.”
Kafka called for specific protocols to deal with complaints from family members and rapid response to those complaints. He also called for the creation of a family council, as well as regularly scheduled family events such as open houses to make family members more comfortable, and he recommended Sunday and holiday recreation activities that would include family members.
Although he didn’t criticize Simkin Centre CEO Sandra Delorme directly, Kafka described at great length the kinds of the qualities that a CEO should exhibit.
While Delorme capably oversaw the institution’s move from its longtime north Winnipeg location to its new south Winnipeg home in the early 2000s, the CEO’s focus now, he wrote, should be on engaging staff, families and residents and creating a positive atmosphere at the home.
Last February, Simkin’s board renewed Delorme’s contract for another five years, but she has been on indefinite leave since October.
“We hope she will be back soon,” Kroft said. “We will have to see how things go.
“Overall, Mr. Kafka praised the quality of care at the Simkin Centre,” Kroft added. “But in health care, no institution is ever perfect.”
The Simkin board has created a task force to implement Kafka’s 35 recommendations “as quickly as is reasonable,” adding, “This will takes some years.”
Kafka foresees a timeline of one to three years. “The most important aspect of my report is what kind of impact it will have on Simkin Centre residents and their families,” he said.