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Response to Bob Kopstein : Real Democratic Reform is Needed .

Marsha Palansky, Harriet Berkal, Harvey Berkal with the Support of the Delegation of Concerned Families posted July 25th,2012

 

[Editor's note: The following is a response to the article written by Robert Kopstein regarding the selection of Board Members at the Simkin Centre, which can be accessed by clicking here:

http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=2688&sec=2&title=Bob_Kopstein:__The_Simkin_Centre__and__the_Selection_and_Terms_of_office_of_Boards_Members,_and_other_board_practices]

Response to Bob Kopstein: Real Democratic Reform is Needed

 

“PROTEST IS A LEGITIMATE EXPRESSION AND PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE DETERRED FROM IT.” –

Quote by former judge Robert Kopstein, 2002 FORMER JUDGE ROBERT KOPSTEIN 2002 (from a provincial court hearing)

It’s indeed ironic that Bob Kopstein, who has previously championed the rights of protest, is now being selective in the process, by which those of us who care deeply about our Jewish elderly, are allowed to be a part of a BOARD overseeing their care.

 
The WHRA hired Peter Kafka, the former head of Vancouver’s Jewish nursing home, which has for years had free elections of board members by the community, to look into issues of governance at the Simkin Centre.
 
Peter Kafka 's report leans heavily towards a democratic model inviting much more community involvement. Robert Kopstein is trying to turn the tide back in his approach, which essentially ignores the foundations of Kafka's report.
 
It goes without saying that members of the Winnipeg Jewish community have pressured for new proposals for governance at the Simkin Centre, because the existing system does not allow members of the Winnipeg Jewish Community with legitimate grievances to effectively seek change or otherwise influence the system. Running for democratic election is the only means available to members of the community who want to repair, fix, improve or otherwise better the services provided by the Home. If a member of the community could gather enough support to be elected in a democratic fashion, then clearly he or she is deserving of being on the Board. No nominating committee should be able to insulate an existing Board from public scrutiny and control by preventing certain members of the community, with a different vision, from running for election.
 
Why has there been pressure for reforming the system of governance at the Simkin Centre, if the engine wasn’t broken in the first place?
 
 
Surely as taxpayers alone, we have the right to ask questions regarding the spending of public monies. The Simkin Centre receives approximately $11M in public funding. Yet, they run a closed shop! The Board of Directors nominates and ELECTS its own successors. That’s the opposite of how Jewish nursing homes in Vancouver (Louis Brier) and in Ottawa (Hillel Lodge) operate. Those homes have free elections where the community votes for members of the board of directors.
 
 
Now, the Board of the Simkin Centre, in response to community pressure, has completed a Review of Governance. Their recommendations have been published on the Home’s web site (and the relevant sections are reprinted at the end of this response).
 
But the home is still fighting the simple principles of community democracy. This is no more apparent than with their new façade to invite the participation of the three primary Jewish organizations: The Jewish Federation, Jewish Child and Family and The Jewish Foundation. They propose that those organizations, in turn would, forward names of designated parties to sit on the Simkin Board in the future -parties that have to meet a limited “skills matrix” that the Simkin Centre will be applying. But even then, these proposed candidates would have to be ratified by the Simkin BOARD – the ultimate powerhouse who has final decision. Does this sound like a democratic approach for an institution? Why can’t members of the community come forward themselves and stand for election?
 
Bob Kopstein has said that prominent members of our community, lawyers and doctors are not prepared to subject themselves to the indignity of running for office. Oddly, the Law Society and the College of Physicians and Surgeons – both self-governing bodies – even have democratic elections within their memberships for their controlling boards. And of course hundreds of synagogues have their members elect their boards. Why in heaven’s name is this board so afraid of the community’s judgment? If they are doing the fine job he suggests, they will readily be re-elected. If not, new people with new perspectives will be brought to bear.
 
Sadly, the government itself had the right via the PPCO legislation to allow the Minister to walk out a Board and take over as trustee. In the case of Mrs. Peck’s death, this did not happen. (We speculate that with an impending provincial election – this would not have been desirable for them to do so.) BUT after filing a Freedom of Information inquiry – we find that Manitoba Health has NEVER utilized this legislation to the full affect. In  our view, swift action needs to be taken to remove incompetent boards and administrators and replace them with those who are not afraid to clean house and correct urgent problems.
 
We ask Robert Kopstein how it is that Louis Brier Nursing Home operates so well, given that they offer memberships to the community, which also serves as a fundraiser and democratically build their board? If you are privately funded, then there may be an argument for a closed shop but the majority of the Simkin Centre's funding comes from our tax dollars and yet our delegation is damned for bringing forth our concerns, not only as Jews but also as citizens. How tragic!
 
 
And in the end, the delegation has spent numerous hours volunteering their time and services as well– akin to those unpaid Board members Kopstein refers to. The difference being that we allowed ANYONE to belong (no skills matrix required) and for those we felt would be too afraid to come forward publicly as they feared repercussions for their loved ones, we arranged via Manitoba Health for an anonymous line to be set up with an Assistant Deputy Minister. As reported in he Winnipeg Jewish Review, there  were numerous calls. Does that reflect an organization that is running at optimum capacity?
 
This is what we have to say to the Winnipeg Jewish Community. With courage, we spoke up for those with NO VOICE. Without our input, would there have been an ACTION PLAN at all, that will hopefully benefit the residents ? Ask Robert Kopstein where the hundreds of suggestions for the Action Plan came from? A significant number of them came from us, even if this is not publicly recognized.
 
A new CEO, who is not Jewish, has been hired, even though the Kafka Report recommended otherwise. Hopefully, she will be able to be autonomous from the Board and implement an action plan that will improve the home and serve to weed out bad apples. Democratic elections will only come about if Manitoba Health withholds monies to operate until this condition is met.
 
We have done more than our part in informing families about our ongoing concerns at the Simkin Centre. In our opinion, change is happening albeit slowly and with certain limitations.But we still, do not have  confidence in the level of care at the Home.
 
We have said to the community that in our view there are certain situations Simkin Centre is not adequately able to handle (e.g. full palliative medicine near death).
 

We urge families of residents to get your parent to a hospital if you are concerned they are near the time of passing  or if you lack confidence in the Home’s ability to ensure a peaceful passing.

We urge families to check your loved one’s body to make sure no wounds are brewing and do not hesitate to take them outside the facility to specialists if you feel medical issues are not being properly assessed by the Home’s staff.

 
If you have a diabetic in the home – we urge you to insist on seeing a record of their glucose monitoring.  Ask the Simkin Centre if frequent blood sugar monitoring for diabetics occurs at the Home or not?
 

Check your parent’s medications to see if they match what you think they are receiving.

Our elders deserve a passing with dignity.

Be their advocate, as they need you.

 
We wish the new CEO of Simkin Centre the very best and hope that she is able to affect real change at the Simkin  Centre. Her efforts should aim to rebuild an institution that is transparent and respects residents and their families. We encourage her to follow through with the earlier promises of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to provide the Home with a full-time Nurse practitioner (whose presence has been studied in other homes and proven very beneficial.)
 
Finally, know that a system that is so defensive does not reflect a system that wishes to change. Sadly, we have seen this at every turn. Ownership is key if they are to move forward and become a shining star in our community. Our delegation has done its job and prays that the community will now demand a follow through of the Kafka Report, which had the Simkin Centre heading in the right direction. 
 
 
“Do not Abandon me in my old age” – Psalm 71:19
 
NEW SIMKIN CENTRE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REF0RM
 

The Board will establish Skills Matrix whereby it sets out the skills, experiences, and qualities required of Board Directors.

Annually, the new Nominations Committee would assess the expected vacancies and determine skill/experience gaps:

This Committee would be comprised of Board representatives as well the President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg or his/her designate; the President of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba or his/her designate; the President of Jewish Child and Family Service or his/her designate; and a representative of the residents and families of residents of the Simkin Centre appointed by the Board from the Family Council or similar committee in place from time to time.

The Committee would be involved in developing strategies on a year-round basis to ensure a pool of talented and able volunteers are ready to serve on committees and the Board.

It would be responsible for activating the nomination process, managing the succession plan for Directors, and providing draft slates for the Board to consider.

The Nominations Committee would be responsible for developing necessary programming to accomplish its annual objectives.

The Nominations Committee would pursue three courses of recruitment:

An ad would be posted in relevant media to announce the number of vacancies and critical skill requirements.

Individuals would be encouraged to submit their resumes for review within a specified time frame.

The Committee would consider names of individuals that have come to their attention, who would be approached to consider sitting on the Simkin Centre Board.

When all applications have been received, the Nominations Committee would consider candidates in light of the skills gap analysis that will have been completed. The nomination process will close at this time.

The recommended slate would be presented for ratification by the Board at the Annual General Meeting.

Skills Matrix

As discussed, the Board would like to make clear what the requisite competencies, experiences, and qualities of Board members are. Each year, the Board would determine the number of Board vacancies expected, and, through the Nominations Committee, would determine what skills/competency gaps should inform the nomination process.

Leadership qualities, such as integrity, ability to work in teams, and passionate commitment to the mission of the organization are sought.

Examples of some requisite skills, which may vary from time to time, are offered below:
Finance
Business management
Medical/nursing expertise
Human resource management
Sector knowledge
Jewish values and literacy
Government and government relations
Legal
Strategic planning
Risk management
Quality and performance management
Board governance
Fundraising
Community engagement
Development
 
 
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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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