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Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre of the Sharon Home Inc.


by Rhonda Spivak, July 5, 2011

Important Questions For Sandra Delorme, CEO of The Sharon Home and the Board of the Sharon Home From The Editor Of The Winnipeg Jewish Review.

To Saundra Delorme And/or All Officers and Directors of the Board of the Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre of the Sharon Home Inc.

Please be advised that it is my intention to post all of my questions below to you in full on the website of the Winnipeg Jewish Review. As well, all of your answers will be posted in full once you have provided them.

This is being done in the interests of promoting understanding and transparency over the recent issues involving the operation and governance of the Sharon Home. It is also being done with the knowledge that many in the Jewish community are uneasy and somewhat alarmed by the fact that the situation at The Sharon Home has led to a full standards review by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Department of Health, the first of its kind in Manitoba history. This is not something which anyone I have spoken to is proud of—in fact, quite the opposite.

As an editor of this publication, I have been aware for several months of growing concerns about the standard of care at the Sharon Home (I have received a number of verbal and written reports from members of our Jewish community in this regard). I deliberately chose not to cover this story with the hopes that the situation would improve and repair itself and there would be no need for media attention from the Winnipeg Jewish Review. In making this decision, I was mindful of the fact that The Winnipeg Jewish Review website is read by members of the general community and general media and that over the last year articles appearing on this website have been quoted and referred to in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Globe and Mail, other community newspapers in Winnipeg, and hundreds of other websites/ publications across the globe. As such, I know that when an article is posted on the website of the Winnipeg Jewish Review it can certainly attract attention elsewhere-and not necessarily remain in the confines of the Winnipeg Jewish community.

Additionally, I chose not to focus attention on the problems of the Sharon Home because I was also very mindful of the fact that the Sharon Home, to the best of my knowledge, was going to be embarking on a major fundraising effort in the community, and I did not wish to provide, what might be, unflattering coverage at such a sensitive time.

Unfortunately, given recent events which have resulted in the “full standards” review, I have made the decision that it is in the interests of our Jewish community to have a vigourous, and robust Jewish media which will ask the necessary albeit tough questions. I do so, not with any pleasure—but with the knowledge that at this point, it is definitely my duty, and the belief that transparency may be the best treatment for this situation.

Here are my questions.


1.TThe by-laws of th eSharon Home currently define members (who can vote at the annual meeting) as members of the Sharon Home’s existing board, meaning that the board itself selects new board members and is not in any way accountable to the community through an election process, in which members of the community at large, or even simply families of the residents can vote. Under the current by-laws, the nominating committee (made up of a certain number of officers/current board members) provides a slate which they approve of, and then at the annual meeting members of the board (not the general community) elect new board members. The by-laws currently define those who can vote at the annual meeting as members “of the Board of the directors of the Corporation.” Thus, there is no route for any one not recommended by the nominating committee to run for election and win a place on the board. If, for example, Harriet or Harvey Berkal wanted to run as members or officers of the Board, at the Sharon Home’s next annual meeting in October 26, under the current by-laws they could not do so unless they were nominated by the nominating committee and won more votes than others on the slate, bearing in mind that the only members of the Jewish community that could vote were those already on the board. Additionally, it means that any donor to the Sharon Home does not necessarily have any say in the election of new Board Members.


 a) please confirm that the above reading of the current by-laws is correct?

b) I have been told by Sandra Delorme that the by-laws are currently being reviewed by the Sharon Home’s legal counsel and they will be changed. Brian Klein  of Aikens is legal counsel.Does the Sharon Home anticipate that the changes in the by-laws will provide members of the Jewish community who attend the next annual meeting with the right to vote to elect Board members? If not, why not?

c) On what date did the Sharon Home instruct legal counsel to begin reviewing the by-laws? I have been told this was done immediately after the "full standards review" was ordered? Is this correct?

d) A source has told the Winnipeg Jeiwsh Review that rather than making the Board more accountable to the community, the proposed  new by-laws will reduce the number of  Board members. Please confirm immediately whether this is correct.

d) Will the Sharon Home provide the Winnipeg Jewish Review with a copy of the proposed changes to the current by-laws so that we can analyse and comment upon them for the Jewish community before they are enacted? Will the Board also provide the Winnipeg Jewish Review with written correspondence it sent to the Sharon Home's lawyer outlining why the Board wished to have the current by-laws changed? If not, why not?

e) Until such time as the new by-laws are enacted, will you enable the Jewish media to attend any and all Board meetings and report on them in full, record them in full in the interests of transparency and accountability to the Jewish community. If not, why not?

d) In my telephone conversation with Sandra Delorme on June 24, 2011, I asked whether the vote at your last Board meeting regarding meeting with Harriet Berkal’s group as a group (in order that they collectively discuss their complaints) was recorded. Delorme advised me that the Board does not record the votes at its meetings. Will the Sharon Home Board agree to record any and all votes at the Board level as of now (even if not so required by the by-laws) and make the results of all votes available to the Jewish media? If not, why not?

e) How many spots on the Sharon Home Board do you anticipate will become open as of this October 26 2011, when the next annual meeting is scheduled to take place?

f) Is it the case that you intend to reduce the number of Board members so as to let the current Board remain in power without the need to  add new Board members? Please confirm immediately if this is the case.

g) If it is  the Board's intention to change the by-laws so as to reduce the number of Board members (thereby preventing or limiting the number of new Board members and insulating yourselves even more so from being accountable to the community), will you be surprised if there is an on-line petition circulated within the community calling for the Chairs of your Board to resign immediately ? [The Winnipeg Jewish Review will certainly be willing to publish the petition and its signatories]

h) If it is the case that the changes in the by-laws you enact make the Shaorn Home Board even more of a closed shop than it already is, will you be surprised if more and more potential donors refuse to contribute to your upcoming fundraising campaign ?


i) I am informed that the Sharon Home has set up a Qualtiy Assurance Committee to overloook the implementation of the Action Plan.  Who is on the committee and how was it chosen? Who did the choosing?

j)  Were any of the families who complained in Harriet Berkal's committee asked to be on the Quality Assurance Committee and if not why not?

k) Was there any notice in writing put out to the families of all of the residents of the Sharon Home (who are all stakeholders) asking if  they wanted to be on the Quality Assurance Comittee and if not, why not?



2. In my recent telephone conversation with Delorme of Friday June 24, I asked whether there were any members of the Sharon Home Board who voted against the decision made by the Board to refuse to meet with Harriet Berkal and her group of concerned families as a GROUP rather than agree to meet with them individually only. Delorme told me that the decision made by the Board “passed easily”, but not unanimously. Can you please tell me how many and which Board Members opposed the decision not to meet with Berkal’s group as a group (out of the total number of Board members who voted at the meeting)? Were there any abstentions? [note I am advised that all members of Berkal's group waived their privacy rights so as to be able to meet with  the board as a group]

3. During the deliberations on this issue, did any of the Board members foresee the situation where a refusal to meet with Harriet Berkel’s group would result in the group meeting with government officials from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and/or Department of Health which would result in an unprecedented “full standards review” for the Sharon Home?

4. If no one on the Board foresaw this possibility, is it a sign that the Board as a whole is out of touch ? Did the Board really think that by refusing to meet with Berkal’s group as a group, that the complaints would go away? Does the Board believe it is in a better position vis-a-vis the Jewish community today than it was before the decison to  refuse to meet with Harriet Berkal and her group was made?

5. Did Sandra Delorme make any recommendations to the Board on the issue of whether to meet with Harriet Berkal’s group as a group and if so what were her recommendations? Are there any letters, emails in writing from Delorme to the Board on this issue, and if so, is the Board willing to release these to the Winnipeg Jewish Review for publication?

6. In light of what has transpired as a result of the failure of the Sharon Home Board to meet with Harriet Berkal’s group, would the Board and/or Delorme agree that in retrospect the Board ought to have agreed to meet with Harriet Berkal and her group such that they wouldn’t have felt the need to go to the WRHA with their complaints?

7. In my conversation with Delorme, she told me that the Board decided to meet with members of Harriet Berkal’s group individually because they felt that they could  address the concerns of the families better by meeting with them individually. However, I suggested that since the families wanted to meet as a group, why couldn’t the Board have met with them first as a group and then further individually to get more details of each of their separate concerns? Delorme did not answer my question. Can the Sharon Home Board explain if this option of meeting as a group and then  meeting individually was considered, deliberated on, and if so, why was it rejected or did no one at all think of this option?

8. The families who complained to the WRHA have said that they wanted to meet with the Board as a group because they felt more comfortable speaking as a group as some of them are afraid that their complaining would  lead to their loved ones in the home receiving poorer care as revenge for their complaining. They have spoken of a “culture of fear.” In light of this, when the Board agreed to meet with families individually, did the Board offer to let family members tape their meetings?

9. Is the Sharon Home Board willing to provide the Winnipeg Jewish Review with all internal memos and/or emails between any Sharon Home  Board member/s and Delorme, or between Board members which relate to Harriet Berkal, Harvey Berkal, and any of the other families who complained? If not, why not?


10. Could you please tell the Winnipeg Jewish Review how many people received letters warning them that they could be banned from visiting their loved ones at the Sharon Home in the past two years? Were all of these letters sent out by Sandra Delorme? Did the entire Board of the Sharon Home or the Chairs of the Board see and approve of these letters before they went out, and if not, why not?

11. In what year was the first such letter sent out ? Under Delorme’s term at the Sharon Home (which is 8 years, I understand) how many warning letters were sent out per year ? Please provide a breakdown per year.

12. If the Board does not know these numbers, why have they not been monitoring this?

13. Has anyone who ever received such a warning letter been a lawyer or retained a lawyer as a result of receiving same? What happened in the case of anyone who retained a lawyer in received this warning letter ?

14. Are these letters all standardized or do they each say different things? If they are standardized, could you please provide a copy of a standard letter (with any names deleted) to the Winnipeg Jewish Review for publication.?

15. Is there a written protocol in the Sharon Home which must be followed before such a letter is sent out, and if so, can you please provide the written protocol to the Winnipeg Jewish Review for publication?

16. In addition to written warning letters, how many times has Delorme given verbal warnings to family members with loved ones in the home?

17. Has the Sharon Home under Delorme’s term ever called the police on a family member with a loved one in the home, and if so, how many times has this happened and in which years?


18. Does the Board of the Sharon Home have full confidence in Sandra Delorme’s ability to lead the Sharon Home through this "full standards" review and make the changes necessary to restore confidence in this institution ?

 19. How many years does Sandra Delorme have left on her contract ?

 20. When was her contract last renewed?



 21. Is the Board of Directors of the Sharon Home willing to attend a public meeting to be organized by a number of Jewish organizations in the community to enable the community to meet and voice its concerns over the current state of affairs at the Sharon Home? If not, why not?


22. Does the Board of the Sharon Home feel that its fundraising campaign ought to take place at the same time as the Home is now undergoing a full standards review or will the campaign be delayed?

23. Is the Board concerned that the "full standards" review and the situation facing the Sharon home will adversely affect its campaign?

24. If this is the case, has the Board considered whether it may be in the interest of the Sharon Home for the Chairs of the Board to announce their resignation, and usher in a caretaker leadership ( made up of a representative of the WRHA ) until such time as a new leadership can be elected at the upcoming general meeting. Does the Board believe that in order to renew confidence of the Jewish community in the Sharon Home as an institution, new Chairs of the Board will be required?

25. Are there any Board Members who are considering resigning their positions as a result of Harriet and Harvey Berkal's letter below or as a result of any of the events that have recently occurred?

Note: If readers have other questions they feel should be asked please send them to [email protected]




To the members of the Board of the Sharon Home:

Our Father, the late Rabbi Louis Berkal, used to kid around and say: “Wild horses couldn’t bring me to the “Moshev Z’kainem” (the Jewish nursing home).  Sadly, after keeping our folks in their own home for seven years after they became ill, we were forced to take him to the Simkin Center. Our parents could no longer afford the cost of private care in their home, as they were running out of money - though he had conscientiously worked for the community for 51 years until he was 90. Our beloved mother passed away at the St. Boniface and was spared the horrific experience our dad endured at the Sharon Home – Simkin Centre.

He was only there for eight and a half months, but his experience was often harrowing!  More than once, we were forced to take him out of the Sharon Home to find proper medical care.  Once he almost died due to a simple ear infection.  When it got increasingly worse, we had to insist on seeking proper medical care ourselves from outside the facility. We got him into a wheelchair van and took him to a specialist whom we arranged to see – she was shocked by his condition and immediately hospitalized him as the infection had become septic. He just barely survived. Another time the doctor at the Sharon Home diagnosed our dad with congestive heart failure without even seeing him or having any medical testing done.  (Again we took him outside the Home to a private doctor, who quickly dismissed any problem with his heart.)

Then, in the last two months of his life, despite obvious signs of a gravely serious medical problem, we could not get a palliative care consult from the medical team at the Simkin Centre. He had a dropping hemoglobin level, a history of colon and bladder cancers and, most importantly, he was suffering with frequent rectal bleeding and diarrhea. We cautioned the Home repeatedly that he might be suffering from a recurrence of cancer, which could lead to an impending bowel obstruction - which indeed happened. Still, no palliative care consult. In his last days he endured a violent episode of projectile vomiting. Finally, after rushing him to the Victoria Hospital where he screamed, “I can’t take it anymore”, proper medical interventions were administered that the Home is not equipped to handle in death (such as subcutaneous morphine, scopolamine, etc.) How many families are unaware of these facts - that nursing homes may not be able to address a death with dignity?

Our father is far from the only patient of the Simkin Centre to have suffered from poor care. Last October a resident of the Simkin Centre named Lilyan Peck died after what appears to have been gross neglect.  Her skin appeared black, akin to second degree burns. She had a grave infection from shockingly inadequate personal sanitation care at the Sharon Home. The hospital nurse who took the photographs of the wounds was shocked and said she had not seen this type of neglect in her thirty years of nursing.  After the hospital filed a critical incident report, the Manitoba Minister of Health phoned Mrs. Peck’s daughter, Marsha Palansky, to offer condolences.

As a result of the publicity over Lilyan Peck’s tragic death, a number of other families have since come forward with their own serious concerns about the Sharon Home.

Yet the board of the Simkin Centre has refused to meet them as a group. The board is not approachable by the community at large or by families. They hide behind Freedom of Information legislation to avoid meeting with groups, stating that it would infringe upon our rights when, ironically, it is to protect them from accountability. Even when we waive our rights – they still refuse to meet. What kind of message does this send to families and to the community?

After Lilyan Peck’s death, a 14 page “action plan” covering 39 areas of concern was announced by the WRHA, in conjunction with the Simkin Centre. It serves to reflect much of what has been missing at Simkin – accountability and respect. The concerned families who were privy to the development of the action plan appreciate the plan itself, but have little or no faith in the present administration to implement it.

Now, as a result of the families’ complaints, Manitoba Health is taking a dramatic step - initiating a full standards reviewof Simkin. This is unprecedented in this province. Never before in Manitoba has a nursing home faced this level of intense scrutiny.

We are challenging just one of you board members – who have spoken to some of us privately – claiming to be on the board to seek change.  If you sincerely believe that change at the Simkin Centre is necessary, it is incumbent upon you to take a determined stand, speak up or resign from a board which acts in a manner so controlling and domineering that it is naïve to think there will ever be positive change at this facility without another publicly disclosed death. Is that what it will take to move mountains here?  Please remember that your names as members of the board will forever be associated with that future death. You have your chance now to avoid future scandal and improprieties and say “enough!”    Simkin has a chance to be a shining gold standard of care in our community – as the Baycrest is in Toronto.  But it is clear that the culture being fostered at your facility, where families are afraid to come forward for fear of repercussions is a malignant one.  Your approach is not working.

Surely, there is one of you who is prepared to go on the record publicly and thus serve as a catalyst for real change.  It must be frustrating to sit at meetings when all that happens is an agreement to avoid public forums, not meet with families, and hide behind letters threatening to ban loved ones who demand better care.

Jewish law promotes treatment of the elderly with “kovod”.  They are not a disposable generation. They deserve our love, care and devotion. That is how our father raised us.

Feel free to contact us at:

  [email protected] This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




 Harriet and Harvey  Berkal

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.