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Monday, July 28, 2014

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Family sues Winnipeg Jewish nursing home

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Martin Pollock, left, with his father and senior partner, Harvey pollock [Myron Love photo]

WINNIPEG — The question of patient care at the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre (also known as the Sharon Home), Winnipeg’s largely Jewish nursing home, is back in the spotlight.

Lilian Peck is a former resident of the home who died from an infection caused by untreated bedsores. On Aug. 13, her family filed a lawsuit against the seniors residence and seven nurses employed there – or formerly employed there – for negligence in Peck’s death.

 Marsha Palansky of Winnipeg, her sister, Jacquelyn Roger of Toronto, and their children, Michelle, Jason and Shira Palansky and Russell and Sarah Roger, filed the lawsuit for negligence in the death of Peck, their mother and grandmother.

The family is seeking $70,000 for “loss of guidance, care and companionship,” as well as $7,865.91 to cover the cost of burial.

Peck’s family has also approached police through lawyer Harvey Berkal to bring criminal charges in the case. (Berkal’s father, the late Rabbi Louis Berkal, was also a resident of the Simkin Centre in his last months and received what some members of the family consider subpar care.)

The Peck case goes back to the fall of 2010 when Peck, 93, was transferred from the home to a hospital and it was discovered that she was suffering from severe, untreated bedsores.

In the statement of claim, the family asserts that the nursing staff at the home was aware as early as Oct. 2, 2010, that peck was “at high risk for pressure ulcers.” A nurse first noticed one such ulcer on Oct. 9. The on-call physician examined the patient and recommended treatment. The wound was cleaned and an ointment applied, and there was no further followup.

Five days later, when Peck complained about pain in the area of her groin, she was told, “Lay down and go to sleep.” The nurses on duty didn’t examine her until much later in the evening, when a health-care aide reported his concerns to the night-shift nurse. Two days later, she was found to be unresponsive and was transferred to hospital, where numerous infected sores were detected. She died shortly after.

In the aftermath of Peck’s passing, under pressure from her family and several other families, the provincial government’s Protection of Persons in Care Office (PPCO) and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) conducted reviews of the Simkin Centre. A number of recommendations were brought forth aimed at improving care. As well, the centre’s CEO at the time, Sandra Delorme, took sick leave and was replaced last spring by Kathleen Klaasen.

To fight the case, Peck’s family has hired as co-counsels, Elliott Leven and Martin Pollock. “This case isn’t about money,” said Pollock, a specialist in malpractice cases. “There is no loss of income or future earnings involved.

“The point is that our vulnerable seniors deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They deserve to receive proper health care. That is in keeping with our Jewish traditions.

“Unfortunately, in this case, the treatment that Mrs. Peck received allegedly fell beneath the threshold of what would be an acceptable level of care,” Pollock continued.

“The family wants to make sure that the kind of negligence that happened to their mother and grandmother doesn’t happen to anyone else anywhere else, no matter whether a Jewish or non-Jewish nursing home.”

Despite the reviews and recommendations for improvement, Berkal said that he is still being made aware of deficiencies in care at the Simkin Centre. He believes that having a nurse practitioner (a nurse who is licensed to carry out many of the functions of a physician short of prescribing medication) on staff would make a difference.

The WRHA has promised that the Simkin Centre is the next institution in line for a nurse practitioner,” he said, “and the new CEO [Klaasen] is very much in favour of nurse practitioners.”

Regarding the family’s statement of claim, Klaasen wrote, “We have just recently received it and have not yet had time to review it. As a result, we cannot comment further at this point.

“Regarding your comments about a specific resident situation, I’m sure you understand that the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre must respect the confidentiality of residents and so are prohibited by legislation (Manitoba Personal Health Information Act) from releasing information regarding specific cases without the consent of the resident or next of kin (when appropriate). This can be particularly delicate if a case involves people whose ability to provide consent may be impaired by illness.

“It is important to note that the Protection for Persons in Care Office receives numerous calls and concerns about personal-care homes, which they review to determine whether or not they warrant an investigation. This past year, there has been only one investigation by the PPCO involving the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre, which was ruled to be unfounded.”

She added that “the introduction of nurse practitioners in personal-care homes is a good model with demonstrated positive resident outcomes. However, at this time, our priority and focus is to implement the quality-improvement initiatives outlined in our Action Plan, which was developed in conjunction with all our stakeholders.”

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