Disabled person dies after scalding in government care

A developmentally disabled person under government care in Calgary has died after being scalded by bath water.

Government will not name agency involved

A developmentally disabled person under government care in Calgary has died after being scalded by bath water.

The individual, whose age and gender will not be released, was under the care of an agency that receives funding from the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program.

The scalding occurred in late October. The individual died in hospital late last month. The matter is now under investigation by the Alberta government. The Calgary police have been notified.

Minister of Seniors George VanderBurg would not name the agency involved in the scalding. (CBC)

"This is an incident that's caused me not to sleep a few nights," said Alberta Seniors Minister George VanderBurg at a news conference in Edmonton.

"It's a tragic event that's occurred. I can't imagine what the family would be going through or the care providers or the community. It's a terrible loss."

VanderBurg said the caregiver involved no longer works for the agency in question. The agency is still caring for people and VanderBurg says their families have been notified about the death.

He declined to identify the organization because he believes releasing the name would breach the privacy of the dead person's family. He also would not provide any additional details about the case.

"Out of respect for the family right now, I want to really restrict my comments on anything personal," VanderBurg said.

Findings from the provincial investigation, which will be completed in January, will be turned over to Calgary Police. VanderBurg said he will likely ask for a fatality inquiry.

He said agencies have been reminded to check the temperature of bath water whenever they bathe clients and to check their water heaters. The PDD regions have also offered to pay for anti-scalding hardware in all residences funded under the program.

Edmonton senior died in 2004 scalding

NDP MLA Rachel Notley says VanderBurg's refusal to release basic details about the case reminded her of past news conferences held by a minister discussing the deaths of children in care.  

"We are now getting the same kinds of excuses for holding information too close to the chest," Notley said.

"It is possible to have a useful, informed conversation about what happened, what went wrong, what can be prevented, and still maintain the privacy of the family involved and the institution and service-provider that was involved is absolutely something that should be publicly available to people.

"They are by extension, this government, and so, as a result they have an obligation to be publicly accountable for the quality of service that they provide."

In 2006, a fatality inquiry judge looking into the death of 90-year-old Jennie Nelson recommended that bath tubs in every long-term care centre in Alberta have an anti-scald device.

Nelson, a resident of the Jubilee Lodge Nursing Home in Edmonton, died from second-degree burns after she was scalded during a bath in January 2004.

VanderBurg could not say whether there are any regulations regarding temperature gauges or anti-scalding devices.