WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s Justice Department has declined to prosecute in the October 2010 death of Lilyan Peck, a 93-year-old resident of the Simkin Centre, Winnipeg’s longtime Jewish nursing home.
Shortly before her passing, Peck was transferred from the home to a hospital, where it was found she was suffering from severe, untreated bed sores. She died shortly thereafter. As a result, one nurse at the Simkin Centre – also known as the Sharon Home – was fired, while seven others received short suspensions.
For Peck’s daughter, Marsha Palansky, that wasn’t enough. She was joined in demanding answers by Harvey Berkal and his sister, Harriet Berkal Sarbit – whose father, the late Rabbi Louis Berkal, was a Simkin resident for the last year of his life – and others who were unhappy with the level of care at the seniors home.
Last fall, after several reviews into the Simkin Centre’s operations, with follow-up reports recommending changes, the Berkals and Palansky launched a private prosecution related to Peck’s death.
Speaking for the province late last month, Crown attorney Colleen McDuff said she met with the complainants, who gave her a lot of material to review.
“A number of Crown attorneys in addition to myself went over the material,” she said. “Criminal negligence is very difficult to prove. After reviewing the material, we determined that the evidence did not support a case beyond reasonable doubt.”
McDuff said that out of courtesy, and in light of the complainants’ efforts, she agreed to forward the case materials to police to determine if there is enough evidence to file a criminal complaint.
“The Crown won’t be pursuing any further action,” she said.
While expressing disappointment about the Crown’s decision on behalf of Palansky, his sister and himself, Harvey Berkal, who is a lawyer, said the three are pleased that police might become involved.
“There should have been a police investigation a long time ago,” he said. “The coroner should have looked into Lilyan Peck’s death, too. We still don’t know what led to her death.
“We want to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen at the Sharon Home ever again. We would like to see the Sharon Home setting the standard for quality care for the elderly.”
Berkal believes the seniors home should have a full-time nurse practitioner on staff. Nurse practitioners in Manitoba are licensed to perform many of the functions of a doctor.
“We are also not happy that residents are forced to be treated only by Sharon Home-approved doctors instead of their own family doctors,” Berkal said.
Bill Brownstone, acting chair of the Simkin Centre, said that “the Crown intervened in the private prosecution brought by Mr. Berkal against the Simkin Centre and has dropped all charges, because there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.
Referring to a press release issued by Berkal about the Crown’s decision, Brownstone added: “The Simkin Centre understands that the Berkal prosecution has been terminated, and it knows of no factual basis for the suggestion [by Berkal] that the Crown has recommended further investigation or that any criminal proceedings of any kind are being contemplated by any authority.”