Simkin Centre receives positive review from WRHA following unannounced inspection

Simkin Centre logo colour edited 1By BERNIE BELLAN As a result of the many problems associated with personal care homes in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has been conducting unannounced inspections of personal care homes throughout the city.
On May 26 a team of five, including three representatives from Manitoba Health and two from the WRHA, visited the Simkin Centre.

Their report was released July 5.
The team assessed the Simkin Centre in 15 different areas. In conducting the review, the team members spoke with 10 different residents of the centre along with 24 staff members. In addition, 17 different family members also responded to questions posed by the team. The report does not make clear the process by which respondents were chosen to respond to questions.
Respondents were asked to answer questions with one of six possible responses:
Always; Usually; Neutral; Rarely; Never; No comment.
When it came to residents’ responses to questions, they were generally quite positive. For instance, when asked “Do you find this home to be clean and comfortable?” five residents responded “Always,” while five said “Usually.”
When asked, “Do you feel safe in this home?” nine answered “Always,” while one answered “Usually.”
There were 10 questions posed to residents altogether. The one question that elicited only one response of “Always” and only two responses of “Usually”, but six “Neutral” responses was this: “Do you like the food here?”

In follow-up comments the review noted that residents were asked, “If you could change three things about this home, what would you change?”
The one area that received the most responses had to do with food. The review noted that “Four of the ten residents interviewed identified food and the menu as something they would change such as: more resident preferences, variety in menu, food familiar to this generation, better food and more diverse menu that reflects the diverse population.” (emphasis mine).

Readers of this paper might recall that a few months back we delved into the question whether having to serve only kosher food at the Simkin Centre was having an effect on the overall quality of the food served to residents. At the time we noted that many privately run Jewish personal care homes in the United States had begun offering both kosher and non-kosher meals to residents.
At the same time we wondered just how many residents of the Simkin Centre were not Jewish. We had written that anecdotally we had been told by some residents that there was a much higher proportion of non-Jewish residents at the centre than had previously been the case.
In response, Gerry Kaplan, Chair of the Simkin Centre Board of Directors, wrote: “Regarding the ratio of Jewish to non-Jewish residents, over the years approximately 60% to 65% of our residents have been Jewish. As Laurie Cerqueti (CEO of the Simkin Centre) noted when you contacted her, the numbers vary over time.”
In response to an email I had sent to Laurie Cerqueti on July 13, asking her how many of the residents at the Simkin Centre currently are not Jewish, Laurie wrote back (on July 18): “We currently have 90 non Jewish Residents living at the Centre” (emphasis mine).
(Ed. note: That figure equates to 45% of the residents at the centre, if the centre is at maximum capacity). Laurie added: “ We continue to be the home of choice for Jews and non-Jews that require personal care home services. As I have mentioned previously, people from the Jewish community are priorized for admission to Simkin and are admitted pretty much immediately.”
With regard to the quality and diversity of food, however, Rabbi Yosef Benarroch, Spiritual Leader of the Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Congregation, also head of the Vaad Hakashrut of Winnipeg, objected to my contention that the quality of food at the Simkin Centre was not as good as it could be if the Simkin Centre were not required to remain fully kosher. Rabbi Benarroch wrote in a January email: “I was quite surprised to read your piece on the Simkin advocating for the facility to go non kosher and provide packaged meals for those who want kosher. In the seven years that I have been overseeing Kashrut at the Simkin there has not been a single such request. Not from the administration, not from residents and not from families including the non Jewish residents. The quality of the food is excellent and I can say this first hand with my mother being a resident.”
The responses from residents to other questions were unilaterally positive; however, one should bear in mind that the sample size (10 residents out of a total population that could be up to 200 depending on the number of vacancies at any given time) of residents was quite small. Also, one might bear in mind that many of the residents are not in a position to be able to respond in a cogent manner to questions of the sort that the review team posed.
Still, when it came to responses from family members (of whom there were 17 who gave responses), again the responses were generally quite positive, ranging from 15 out of 17 responding “Always” to two questions about whether the staff treats family members respectfully, to does the staff take time to talk to you and answer your questions?
Following are some comments from family members:
“The following statements are from my Mom, when asked what do you feel about her unit. ‘Everything is so clean’, ‘I feel safe’, ‘very well trained’, ‘I enjoy the activities’, ‘the food is good’, ‘caring and kind’, ‘you’re funny’, ‘I love their smiling eyes’, ‘staff are good natured’, ‘patient’, ‘fast response’, ‘loving’ and ‘I feel cared for’. I feel so blessed and comforted that my Mom is at Simkin. The communication is outstanding! The nurses and doctors and entire team treat my Mom like their own. Her above comments tell our story. I am so impressed with the safety protocols, meal delivery, personal protective equipment supplies, housekeeping and medical care. Simkin was our first choice at paneling and it still is our first choice after six months.”
“Some patients need more fluids so they should be encouraged to drink more.”
“I am grateful to all staff. COVID has been awful but staff have been heroic.”

When it comes to staff responses to questions, while the general attitude was quite positive, the one area that jumps out has to do with staffing, where six out of the 24 respondents answered either “Neutral” or “Rarely” in response to the question: “Do you feel there is adequate staffing in your department to complete all work required?”
However, when it came to assessing the Simkin Centre’s response to dealing with infection control and prevention during Covid, the responses were overwhelmingly positive, with 24 respondents saying the centre “Always” or “Usually” responded well.

Many of the staff added comments about working at Simkin. The issue of wanting higher wages surfaced several times. Here are all the comments received from staff:

“It has been 5 years since our contract was renewed. I am considered an essential worker but they can’t give me a cost of living raise.
“Simkin Centre has a strong sense of teamwork. Management builds strength in their team by assigning responsibilities and training for the job they are trained to do. When things are not going well, nursing management has an open door policy to take forward any issues, concerns and frustrations. Problem solving is key at Simkin. We meet as a team and work quickly to problem solve, educate, train or adapt to the situation in front of us. The slogan Simkin strong / Simkin cares. It has built morale with all departments.
“I am quite happy with management. They do try and provide what we need.
“PCH’s need more funding to hire more staff to increase the resident’s quality of life and to decrease staff burn out, both physically and mentally. The pandemic has proved that we need to do better for PCHs, now more than ever.
“An amazing facility! I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. The care at the home is second to none!
“I have worked her (sic.) at Simkin for over 25 years. And have always enjoyed it for the opportunity of having a full time job and doing something that helps others.
“There are always things that can be improved BUT overall, Simkin is a good facility to work at. Recreation is a priority and has a healthy budget.
“Barely functioning on my department due to lack of staffing. People are stressed out and overworked. Almost always have to expect to work short and extra hours. Long time casuals and part timers don’t like to pick up hours because work environment is not enjoyable or feel it’s worth it.
“We need additional staffing for housekeeping and we need increase for