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simkin centreEd. note: This article was initially written Nov. 17. By Nov. 20, partly as a result of exchanges of information I had with a spokesperson for the WRHA, a decision that had been taken by the WRHA to cancel funding for security at the Simkin Centre as of Nov. 1 has now been postponed until March 31, 2018. This article details the chronology of what happened.

By BERNIE BELLAN

On Monday, Nov. 13 we were informed by one of our readers that a major change had happened at the Simkin Centre: 24-hour security had been cut back to only 12 hours a day and the phone number to the security desk was no longer in service.


As a result, we contacted Irwin Corobow, executive director of the Simkin Centre, to inquire about the changes that had allegedly occurred. I sent the following email to Irwin on Nov. 13:
Hi Irwin,
I understand that the security desk has been cut back at the centre so that the phone no. to the desk no longer works and there is no one there 24-7 any longer. Can you comment on that? Are there other cuts that have taken place? If so, are these cuts a result of cutbacks coming from the WRHA?
Thanks
-Bernie

Irwin Corobow responded: The WRHA had agreed some ten years ago to provide, at its cost, security services at The Simkin Centre. This was in a response to a request from The Centre based on the fact that organizations in the Jewish community faced security threats not faced by non Jewish organizations. As far as I know, The Centre was unique amongst PCHs (Personal Care Homes) in having these services provided by the Region.
In mid October the WRHA contacted the Centre and indicated that it would no longer fund those services as of November 1 - approximately two weeks’ notice time. We have been advised that The Centre would have to fund the services from within our existing budget. Unfortunately we have no budget line for security services. We have requested that the Region re-consider its decision or at least give us a longer notice period to consider our options. In the meantime we have continued temporarily with the service for 12 hours a day until mid December. We have also encouraged family members to take advantage of our swipe card system which allows them to enter and exit the building when the doors are locked.
As you know the WRHA has been directed by government to eliminate its operating deficit. Personal Care Homes had their budgets cut back by .25 % - which for The Simkin Centre represents a reduction of $34,000 in the current budget year. There have been a few other cuts of a smaller nature impacting on Personal Care Homes that will have an impact on our budgets. As we did not contract for the security services directly I cannot tell you how much money the Region is saving by cutting the service to The Centre, but I am guessing it is the range of $150,000 to $200,000 per year.

I sent Irwin the following further question: Was the money for security services paid directly to the Simkin Centre? If the cut was as much as $150-200,000 and a reduction of $34,000 represents a .25% cut in funding, then the reduction in funding for security services represents a further 2% cut in funding. Am I correct in that?
Irwin responded: The Region handled the security services contract directly. The Centre never received any funding directly.


I then asked Irwin the following question: But can you describe more fully how much the security has been cut back? A figure of $150-200,000 (which you used) must surely represent more than just the cost of having someone at the front security desk.
Irwin responded: I am not privy to the contract details as it was the Region’s contract with the security company.
All I can do is guess based on having a security person 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Assuming a wage of $15/hour plus benefits for a security guard the annual cost would be at least $150,000. But that would not include any “profit” for the Security company itself so that is why I am guessing the cost could range higher.

I wanted to follow up what happened with the WRHA, so I posed the following question to a spokesperson for the WRHA on Nov. 14: I’ve been made aware that the WRHA has eliminated the money that was being allotted for security at the Simkin Centre. Irwin Corobow at the Simkin Centre estimates that the WRHA would have been spending between $150-200,000 for security.
Can you confirm that the money that was previously being allocated for security at the Simkin Centre has, in fact, been eliminated and, if so, how much was it?
Also, if that money has been cut, can you give a reason?

On Nov. 14, I received this response from that spokesperson: The region has received a letter from Mr. Corobow outlining the Simkin Centre’s position and is in the process of reviewing the document. We appreciate the context he has provided and discussion with the site is expected to continue.


I also attempted to contact each of the four other Jewish personal care homes in Canada: Louis Brier in Vancouver, Our Parents’ Home in Edmonton, Baycrest in Toronto, and the Jewish Eldercare Centre in Montreal. I was able to confirm that each of those homes still maintains 24-hour security with guards posted at security desks,
In response to questions regarding how security is funded at each of those institutions I was told the following: Funding for the Jewish Eldercare Centre in Montreal comes from the provincial government, including security.

I spoke to the head of security at Baycrest, who told me that Baycrest is such a vast institution that it has a very large security department; however, since part of Baycrest is also a hospital, the situation there is somewhat different and the doors to the hospital are not locked. The nursing home component, however, does remain locked 24 hours and the budget for security comes from within the general budget for Baycrest, which is provided by the provincial government. There is no special allocation given for security, I was told.
That was also the case at Louis Brier, where I spoke to the CFO for that institution: Funding for Louis Brier comes in the form of general funding from the provincial government, but there is no special allocation for security. As such, Louis Brier is responsible for determining how much it wishes to fund for security out of the general funding that it receives.
The one Jewish nursing home whose situation is quite a bit different, I learned, is Our Parents’ Home, located in Edmonton. The only services that are funded there, I was told, are strictly “nursing” services. As such, although the home does maintain 24-hour security, funding for that has to come from non-governmental sources.

Interestingly, I reported my findings about other Jewish nursing homes to the spokesperson for the WRHA with whom I had been in communication. It turns out that I was being used as a source of information for the WRHA. I received the following email on Saturday, Nov. 18: (Who knew that media spokespersons for the WRHA look at their work emails on the weekend?)
 Hi Bernie. So am I correct in that all the other homes pay for security out of their overall operating funding?

I responded: Vancouver - yes; Edmonton - no; Toronto - yes; Montreal has yet to get back to me.
(I did hear from someone in Montreal shortly before our publishing deadline on Monday, Nov. 20 - and conveyed the information that Montreal is also funded by the provincial government to the WRHA spokesperson.)
I also noted in my email: I don't know what discussions you may be having with Irwin, but I certainly wonder about the rather sudden halt to funding of security at the Simkin Centre without much notice. Might the WRHA have any explanation for that?
-Bernie

In the original draft of my article, this was my final sentence: "It certainly appears that the Simkin Centre has become an unwitting victim of the provincial government’s order to all regional health authorities to eliminate their deficits. While one might understand the motivation -  giving only two weeks notice that funding for security is going to be eliminated? That seems extreme."

But, after I had finished writing this article and was readying it for publication, I did continue exchanging emails with the spokesperson for the WRHA. On Nov.18 - late at night, I received this email, (apparently in response to a letter received by the WRHA from Irwin Corobow): "The region is preparing a response to Mr. Corobow's letter. We believe an accommodation can be reached."

Then, on Monday, Nov. 20, we received this e-mail from the WRHA at 2:00 pm -  after we had sent the paper to our printer. We revamped this story to include this e-mail:
Hi Bernie. Funding allocated specifically for security services at the Simkin Centre will continue until March 31, 2018. At that point, the Centre has the option of funding the service through its operating budget. The region connected with Irwin this afternoon.

As a final note, the Free Press published a story on Friday, Nov. 24, which noted that the fact that all personal care homes in Winnipeg had received a .25% cut to the amounts they would be receiving from the WRHA had not been public knowledge until my story about cuts to  Simkin Centre security had been published Nov. 22. The Free Press was gracious enought to acknowledge my scoop. I didn't even realize I had one.

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