Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Family sues nursing home

Province blamed death on neglect

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Lilian Peck's family is suing the nursing home the province put under a microscope and blamed for neglect leading up to her death.

Peck died at the Sharon Home in Linden Ridge. Her treatment has been the focus of at least three provincial government investigations in the last two years.

But the lawsuit marks the first time Peck's family -- her daughters and grandchildren -- have taken legal action against the institution that is subject to provincial standards.

This time it's emotional and personal, said Marsha Palansky, Peck's daughter.

"Basically, it's to make sure this never happens again at Sharon Home or any other nursing home," Palansky said.

"It was a complete family decision, there were seven of us," Palansky added, listing her three adult children and her sister's family as parties to the suit.

"I want nursing homes to realize the elderly are still human beings. Sometimes we treat our beloved cats and dogs better than our seniors. I think that's horrible," Palansky said.

The lawsuit is asking for payment of funeral costs of $7,865.91, legal costs and unspecified damages.

A year ago, Manitoba Health determined Peck died after a skin infection -- brought on by sitting in diapers soiled with feces -- led to sepsis, a form of blood poisoning that can prove fatal.

Peck died Oct. 19, 2010 of multiple organ failure at Victoria General Hospital. She was 93.

Two days earlier, she'd been found feverish and unresponsive in her nursing home bed.

A year ago, media reports quoted provincial officials as describing the elderly woman's treatment in the home as "physical abuse by neglect."

The provincial Protection of Persons in Care Office (PPCO), which investigates allegations of abuse in hospitals and personal care homes, did not make the report public. But the Free Press obtained a copy of a letter from the province to the Simkin Centre, the corporate name for the home. It summarized some of its findings and the daughter confirmed the account again Monday.

In addition to the PPCO report, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority conducted a review surrounding Peck's death and ordered two more reports: A performance-standards review due early next month and a review by an outside consultant on the facility's leadership and communication skills, including its dealings with patients' families.

The Canadian Press has reported one nurse lost her job and seven nurses were disciplined. The nursing home has since made improvements.

Sharon Home CEO Kathleen Klassen said in an email relayed by the health authority she'd only just learned about the lawsuit and had no comment. However, "the death of Mrs. Peck was a tragic incident for which we apologized to the family," Klassen wrote, repeating the actions taken since then.

"As a result of all of these measures, an action plan was developed in conjunction with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Manitoba Health and with significant input from residents and families in order to ensure a high quality of care is provided to all our residents."

Palansky said her mother had health problems but she was alert and her care was good until the last two weeks of her life.

At that point, her care changed, Palansky said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2012 A5

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