Scalding death investigation prompts changes in Alberta

The death of a Calgary man has prompted the Alberta government to take action on protecting people in the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program.

The death of a Calgary man has prompted the Alberta government to take action on protecting people in the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program.

Last November, a 35-year-old disabled man died in a Calgary hospital after being scalded in a bath at the group home where he lived.

The provincial investigation of the man's death was released Monday. It found that the care worker didn't adequately keep the man safe.

Minister of Seniors George VanderBurg, responsible for the PDD program, says the government is taking action to prevent another death.

Minister of Seniors George VanderBurg doesn't want something like this to ever happen again. (CBC)

"This was a tragic incident for the family, the community and the PDD program," he said. "This tragedy has weighed heavily on my mind and I don't want something like this ever, ever to happen again."

VanderBurg says the government is upgrading training for care workers and adding temperature sensors to the plumbing in more than 1,000 group homes.

The government said it has developed new safety standards and inspection processes, specifically for smaller group homes as a way to improve the safety of sites that don’t fall under the Supportive Living Accommodations Licensing Act (SLALA). Group homes with four or more residents are already licensed under the act.

"Not only are we double-checking that we have safe procedures in place and that staff are properly trained, but now we’re going to inspect smaller group homes as is done with larger residences and facilities," said VanderBurg.

Over the next year, the Alberta Seniors department will offer education and support to PDD-funded service providers to help them understand and comply with the standards. Inspections of some group homes with three or fewer residents will begin in March 2012.

Similar changes were recommended after a scalding death happened in January 2004 when a senior received second-degree burns during a bath at the Jubilee Lodge in Edmonton.

Family want recommendations implemented

The family of the Calgary man, who hasn't been identified, released a statement Monday afternoon stating, "The challenge now is to ensure that these decisions are implemented, not just in policy manuals, but in the day-to-day activities of all caregivers, and the organizations that employ them."

They believe their loved one died as a result of "an incomprehensible act of negligence."

They say the negligence was not just the severe burns the man sustained while being bathed, but that he remained at the group home for 2.5 hours after he received his injuries, and EMS and his family were not contacted in that time.

"He received no treatment for his injuries or the pain he was suffering until he was finally driven to an emergency department by one of the caregivers," the family said.

The province says the matter has now been turned over to the Calgary police for further investigation.

Group home expresses regret

The group home which looked after the man with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome — a severe form of epilepsy characterized by seizures, developmental delay and behavioural disturbances — said they have taken steps to maximize the safety of their clients.

The home said it has implemented policies like taking and recording each bath and shower water temperature for all individuals.

"We wish to express our deepest regret," said Support Lifestyles Ltd. in a statement.  "Understandably, this incident has been devastating to the family of the individual. It has been very upsetting to the support team within our agency as the individual was supported for over 15 years."