Former provincial Liberal leader Jon Gerrard denied playing politics with the health-care system at the inquest into the death of a personal-care-home resident.
"It was a double tragedy," Gerrard testified Tuesday at the inquest into the death of Frank Alexander, 87. He died in March 2011 after being pushed to the floor at Parkview Place by fellow resident and Alzheimer's sufferer, Joe McLeod. In September 2010, McLeod was jailed at the remand centre for assaulting his wife. In October 2010, Gerard held a press conference to draw attention to the man with Alzheimer's being locked up.
"You held a press conference to ridicule that decision," said Bill Gange, the lawyer representing the Alexander family.
Gerrard said he held the press conference to raise public awareness of the issue of an Alzheimer's patient being held at the remand centre. Days after the conference, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority had McLeod moved to the Parkview Place personal-care home. Within months, Alexander was knocked to the ground by McLeod and died March 28, 2011.
"On the one hand, you have Mr. Alexander who died on the 28th -- that was very difficult and sad," said Gerrard. "On the other hand, you had Joe McLeod... How could this have happened in a facility where he should be cared for and both should be safe?"
Gerrard met McLeod and his wife years earlier when they were living in Camperville, Man. He was contacted by a Camperville resident after they'd moved to Winnipeg about McLeod being jailed.
Gerrard was asked to contact McLeod's family. He spoke with McLeod's daughter, Faye Jashyn, about the assault McLeod was being held for. McLeod didn't recognize Rose as his wife. She showed him a framed picture of the two of them together but he lashed out, pushing her out of their basement apartment and up the stairs. Rose fell on the picture. It broke and cut Rose deeply. A neighbour called police and Jashyn to let her know what happened. McLeod was arrested and Jashyn testified Tuesday she was given the choice of leaving him in the remand centre or taking him home with her.
"I was scared to," she told the inquest that began Monday. "I don't have training to do this. I was frightened I couldn't take care of him."
She said she contacted her NDP MLA and then-NDP MP Bill Blaikie who told her to wait -- things would work out. She was an active party member and volunteer but those connections didn't help her dad get out of the remand centre and into a home. She was contacted by Gerrard, who held a press conference two days later. It made headlines and the WRHA moved him to Parkview Place.
After the WRHA placed him at Parkview Place, she was never informed that her dad should be in a more secure facility.
"Nobody ever expressed concern that we should move him or they should move him," Jashyn told the inquest. Jashyn said she had heard from time to time from care home staff that incidents occurred with her dad but they were never detailed. No one indicated she ought to move him. Parkview Place knew he had been violent in the past because it was the care home to which he was moved.