Caregiver's death no surprise, says fellow worker

A former mental health worker is angry, but not surprised that an Alberta man with a history of attacking women was placed with a female caregiver who he was later charged with strangling.
Mental health worker Valerie Wolski was found dead inside a Camrose home Feb. 12. (Courtesy Craig Wolski)

A former mental health worker is angry, but not surprised that an Alberta man with a history of attacking women was placed with a female caregiver who he was later accused of strangling.

"I was sad and I was upset," said Dorina Franca Germinario. "I was angry, but it wasn't a surpise that it happened."

Terrence Saddleback, 26, was charged with manslaughter in the Feb. 12th strangulation of Valerie Wolski, 41, a worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Camrose, Alta.

He was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and remains at Alberta Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Edmonton.

A 2009 risk assessment prepared after Saddleback attacked a female staff member at a group home in Wetaskiwin, Alta., warned that the developmentally disabled man could be so aggressive that he posed a threat to anyone, but especially women, who cared for him.

Germinario said she was attacked by a client just after starting a job as a caregiver at a facility in Sherwood Park, Alta. about three years ago.

"I had been punched in the face," she said. "I had been punched in the head."

She continued to work at the facility for 18 months.

Terrence Saddleback, accused of killing Wolski, in an undated photo. (Courtesy Graham Jones)

"I was pretty stressed out," she said. "At that point you're just ready for battle at all times.

"It could happen any where in any hallway at any time so you're on high alert for the whole shift."

On her last day at the facility Germinario refused to go into a room with a violent client. 

'I was afraid'

"I was afraid," she said. "At that point it was, 'No I don't want to punched in the face anymore. I don't want to be kicked.'

"It's been a year and a half. I had six or seven incident reports. I've been to the clinic several times. I'm stressed out and tired."

She was fired less than two hours later.

Poor wages, overwork, staff turnover, inexperience, lack of training and stress can combine to make working as a caregiver a dangerous job, said Germinario.

"I think it should be a right (to say no) if the caregiver feels exhausted or overwhelmed or frightened of the situation."

Proper safety steps taken: Minister

Community Supports Minister Mary Anne Jablonski defends measures in the province to ensure the safety of those who deal with the mentally disabled.

"I understand we are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and security of the residents we care for in our programs as well as the staff."

She maintains the proper safety measures were taken in Saddleback's case, although she admitted she knows little about the circumstances of Wolski's death.

"I understand that they felt that Mr. Saddleback was stabilized," Jablonski said. "And that he was being cared for according to the regulations and safety procedures.

"I would assume that anyone caring for Mr. Saddleback would have had all that information (contained in the risk assessment)."

Jablonski wouldn't comment further until Occupational Health and Safety concludes its investigation into Wolski's death.