Winnipeg health authority ends contract with company 3 years after vulnerable man in its care found dead

Winnipeg health authority ends contract with company 3 years after vulnerable man in its care found dead

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it no longer works with an agency involved in a controversial case in which a man with autism and diabetes was found dead in his apartment after not being checked on for four days.

The WRHA contracts with 30 companies to provide services to vulnerable adults, but the health authority says its contract with Teskey & Associates ended March 31 and was not renewed.

“There are opportunities to work with other service providers and we’ve made that decision not to renew the contract with Teskey & Associates,” said Gina Trinidad, the authority’s chief health operations officer for continuing care and community. 

The WRHA had hired Teskey & Associates to provide services for Ronald Wilderman, a 57-year-old diabetic man with Asperger syndrome and a childhood brain injury, who was found dead in his apartment in 2015. 

Wilderman was supposed to be checked on daily. The CBC’s I-Team reported in 2016 that client logs showed he had not been seen for four days prior to his death. An autopsy found he died of complications from diabetes.

The WRHA’s Gina Trinidad noted the health authority’s relationship with Teskey & Associates had been ‘strained’ lately. (CBC)

Under the health authority’s Special Contracts program, vulnerable adults with complex mental health and behavioural needs are given help so they can live on their own.

“I do want to say that we are certainly very grateful to Teskey & Associates for the care that they have provided our clients over many years,” said Trinidad, noting the health authority’s relationship with the agency had been “strained” lately.

The health authority says in recent months, it has transferred care of more than 30 clients from Teskey & Associates to other agencies. 

Sister ‘saddened that it took this long’

Wilderman’s sister, Elizabeth Rosenberg, said her family welcomes news the WRHA will no longer be working with Teskey & Associates.

“I’m very pleased. I’m saddened that it took this long, quite frankly,” said Rosenberg, who says she spoke out about what happened to her brother in the hope that care would improve for others in the Special Contracts program.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, Ronald Wilderman’s sister, is pleased the health authority has ended its contract with Teskey & Associates, but ‘I’m saddened that it took this long, quite frankly,’ she said. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Harris Teskey, president of Teskey & Associates, said contractual obligations prevent him from addressing some points, but in a statement released through his lawyer, he said he was told the reason for not renewing the contract was “budgetary.”

He said he wanted clients to know that Teskey & Associates “has always emphasised a client-centered approach, and that it is not comfortable with compromising those values, or client care, or permitting any of this to be compromised at another party’s insistence.”

Since Wilderman’s death, the WRHA has reviewed its Special Contracts program and made changes, including 11 recommendations from a 2016 internal audit of the contract with Teskey & Associates.

“Since 2016 we have now required all our agencies, including Teskey & Associates, to report any incidents electronically, so that those can be monitored,” said Trinidad.

“No programming is perfect. I mean, there have been incidents, but really, that’s been across the board,” said Trinidad. “It hasn’t been anything of significance that we’re deeply concerned about since 2016 with Teskey & Associates specifically.”

‘Anxiously awaiting’ auditor’s report

Manitoba’s provincial auditor is reviewing the WRHA’s entire Special Contracts program, which costs nearly $20 million annually on average, and currently has 261 clients. The auditor’s office wouldn’t comment on when its report is expected to be released.

“I’m anxiously awaiting the provincial auditor’s report on the entire program itself,” said Rosenberg. “My family and I are somewhat comforted by the fact that this is being looked into, that it’s … finally, after almost three years, being taken very seriously.”

Teskey & Associates also provides services to the provincial government in the Department of Justice and the Department of Families. 

In 2017-18, the firm was paid about $1.3 million for services for 14 clients through the Provincial Alternative Support Services and Community Living Disability Services programs.

A government spokesperson said the department of families is in the process of transferring its clients to other service providers.

Got a tip for the CBC News I-Team? Email or call the confidential tip line at 204-788-3744.

Published at Wed, 18 Apr 2018 06:00:00 -0400