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by Rhonda Spivak, November 15, 2011

[Editor's note: This article is being updated as more people write in responses. Please check back for updates shortly] 

Less than three weeks after numerous  members of the community at the end of the   Simkin Centre's  Annual General Meeting [AGM] on  October 25, 2011 made it clear that they were disattisfied with the current   governance process of  the Simkin Centre and  called for democratization,the Board  of the Simkin Centre has agreed to set up a committe to address those concerns.

In  an editorial published after the AGM in this publication, the Winnipeg  Jewish Review called on the Baord of the  Simkin centre to implement governance reform without delay [to read the editorial click here:]


The following is a press release issued by the Simkin Centre on November 15, 2011:

"RE: New Governance Committee

"At a meeting held on the evening of November 14, 2011, the Board of Directors of The Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre agreed unanimously to establish a new Governance Committee. The Committee is charged with the responsibility of reviewing the Centre’s current model and making recommendations to improve governance of the Centre. At the meeting, the Board requested that the committee: ensure that the review includes opportunities for stakeholder input; and specifically address the Board’s desire that the governance model include effective and appropriate processes to facilitate stakeholder input.

The Committee will be co-chaired by new Board member Jonathan Kroft, BA, LLB, LLM and four-year Board member Howard Collerman., LLB. Jonathan is a partner at Aikins Law and an active community volunteer. He is a former President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg; former Board member of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, Jewish Child and Family Service, and the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba; and a former member of the National Executive of Canadian Jewish Congress. Howard sat as a Provincial Court Judge for nearly thirty-three years until his retirement in 2008. He is a former President of the Manitoba Provincial Judges' Association and Chairperson of the Provincial Judges' Law Amendments Committee. Howard is also a member of the Seven Oaks General Hospital Quality and Patient Safety Committee."

'More information about the Committee and its terms of reference will be available in the coming few weeks".

When asked to comment on the  above development, Harriet Berkal, who applied to be on the Simkin Board but was left off the slate of the nominating committee and who has lead a group of  critics of the  Centre,  told the Winnipeg Jewish Review:

 "If this means that the Board is becoming receptive to altering their by-laws and incorporating a definition to include "community members" , in a democratic model such as the one that exists at Louis Brier Jewish Nursing Home in Vancouver - then we approve.

"However , who do they define as "stakeholders" and what is meant by the term "input" ? Will this allow community members to run in a democratic election for the Board or is it limiting by only allowing for "suggestions" and/or "comments" only by whomever they define as a "stakeholder"?

If the community, who are taxpayers are still being left out on the periphery - then this is inadequate. It is time to dismiss the existing autocratic system they rule by now."

Elaine Berliner, who also applied to be on the  Simkin Centre Board but was rejected said "Why has  Howard Collerman [who has been on the Board for the last four years] not pushed for these changes over the last four years?" Berliner said she believed that the Simkin Centre  Board has acted "with arrogance" up until now, and have set up this committee " because of public pressure." Berliner also indicated that in her view what is required here is not only Board reform, but other changes. Berliner says that she has lost confidence in Simkin Centre CEO Sandra Delorme, and Director of Care [and now acting co- CEO] Alanna Kull.

In an email that Alanna Kull sent to Harriet Berkal on Octboer 24, 2011 Kull indicated that her acting as  interim CEO following  Sandra Delorme's going on  medical leave would be a short term solution.

Kull wrote:

This is a short term solution. I am very aware that this is not a sustainable option with all of the work that needs to take place. The Board is committed to reviewing this in the next few weeks. If Sandra is unable to return by December, than an interim person will need to be hired.

Alan Levy, Assoc. Prof. of Human Resources and Labour relations at Brandon University, who has worked as the Vice President of  Human Resources at Baycrest care home in Toronto  and who attended the AGM at the Simkin Centre wrote in an email to the  Winnipeg Jewish Review,

 "The key for organizational change to be positive is whether the old guard will allow the necessary change to occur. Of course what is now being done is a positive move, but in regard to  organizational behavioral scholarly literature would support the notion that like Moses who was not allowed into the Holy land the old guard must go to allow the winds of change that need to come in to make the Simkin Centre a shining star in the Jewish Community once again. They [the old gaurd]  have too much invested in the way that the world use to be and their status quo notions must be left to history."

Levy adds, "I have designed many new organizations in a change management process( including one  to created the largest health care Corporation in Canada - The Toronto Hospital).It will be important that the old guard is treated respectfully and given the bridge to leave with dignity so there is no effort by them to attempt to tactically sabotage the needed organizational change. It is important that the Committee has the appropriate organizational design skills to proceed successfully. Of course the legal issues are still outstanding and those responsible must be held accountable . But the legal process can not be allowed to injure the processes of organizational change.They are two very different silos and must always be separated."

Charlie Sitwell, former  health care CEO of a hospital who has an extensive background in the health care field for years  wrote to the Winnipeg Jewish Review with his suggestions for an interim CEO:

This is not the first facility to be in an unfortunately difficult situation and without the services of a CEO. Under those circumstances, it was not uncommon for a Board to contract an experienced CEO to deal with their difficulties.

A few examples from the past include the South Shore Region of Nova Scotia who brought in the retired CEO of the Capital Region. Upon the closure of the Red Cross Blood Collection Service, the CEO from Greater Victoria Hospital Society was brought in to Ottawa for a year to set up the new Canadian blood agency. A former CEO at Mt. Sinai, Toronto was brought in to run Toronto East General for a year. Indeed, at the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital in Nova Scotia Government appointed the Executive Assistant to the Deputy Minister as interim CEO and appointed an interim board until I was approached to take over and mend a divided hospital and community. A new Board was elected a year later. There are other examples."

Sitwell offered  the following suggestions regarding Board Reform:

"Following all the criticism, it is a good idea to allow the community to participate in suggesting alternatives. It was also a good move to have new members head the initiative. By the same token, I hope that they set a reasonable date to bring the matter to a close

"Democracy is good. However, it should be tempered with some expertise. Regional and organizational representation should also be considered; in this case, recognizing the religious base of the Simkin Centre. Indeed, many Boards were elected by a society with provision for a few appointments, generally a government representative, a representative from the Ladies Auxiliary and a member from the Medical Staff.'

" The Board should have approximately 12 members, but no more than 14 if additional members are necessary. Otherwise it can become unwieldy. Five to six members    would be elected from a Centre Society, whose membership would be available for a nominal donation, [and  then there ought to be] the following appointments:

" "Where this is an integral part of the Jewish community, one appointment by Federation.

"    "Make the best of the professional community which can be very helpful to the functions of a Board. These people are not intended to act on behalf of the Board. For example, a lawyer on the Board should never act as the Centre’s counsel (It would be a conflict of interest). Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto used such expertise to great advantage, including appointments that were politically influential.

"Have an outside group or organization, possible Federation (preferably not the Board) appoint persons with the following backgrounds;

a. a physician,

b. an accountant,

c. a lawyer

d. someone to represent the religious community

2. "   ""Allow the families to elect one person from their ranks.

3.   ""The Board, at their option could appoint one member, if a particular expertise was desired. (e.g. They may want to have WRHA appoint a person to maintain a close a closer liaison between the organizations.)

"Note that no one on the Board represents any particular group. They are appointed or elected by a group to use their knowledge and experience and to vote their conscience."

"Our bylaws provided that committees could appoint one member to their respective committees (optional). It helped round out committees where desired and also groomed potential future board members."

Bob Freedman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg told the Winnipeg Jeiwsh Review that "We
are ready to assist or advise the Simkin Centre and have so advised them."

 When asked ot comment, Heidi Graham, Drector, Media Relations for the  WRHA said,"As you know we are waiting for the External Review [being done by Peter Kafka of the Louis Briar Home in Vancouver ]

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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.