Secrecy around scalding death frustrates MLAs

Secrecy surrounding a scalding death at a Calgary long-term care home causes frustration among Alberta's opposition parties on Tuesday.

Calgary scalding revives memory of 2006 fatality inquiry

Secrecy surrounding a scalding death at a Calgary long-term care home caused frustration Tuesday among Alberta's opposition parties.

A disabled man died in late November after being scalded in bathwater. He was in the care of an agency paid for by Persons with Developmental Disabilities, or PDD, according to an announcement from the government this week.

Alberta Seniors Minister George VanderBurg wouldn't release any more details, saying he was trying to protect the privacy of the man’s family.  

But New Democratic MLA Rachel Notley says it’s possible to protect privacy while also examining how the system failed to protect the scalded man.

Leads to speculation

"The minister is taking an unfortunate position in terms of being so unwilling to be open and upfront about what actually happened," Notley, the MLA for Edmonton Strathcona, said Tuesday. "So we're in a position of having to speculate."

Liberal MLA Harry Chase says the province didn't act on recommendations that might have prevented the latest fatal scalding of a person in government care. (Calgary-Varsity constituency)

Liberal MLA Harry Chase said the government failed to act on recommendations made five years ago after an elderly patient was scalded and died.

Commenting on the latest death, Chase, the Liberal seniors critic, recalled the 2006 fatality inquiry into the scalding of 90-year-old Jennie Nelson. The inquiry judge recommended that bathtubs in every long-term care centre in Alberta have an anti-scald device, but Chase said this wasn’t followed up.

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.

Although little is known about the recent scalding death, Chase, the MLA for Calgary-Varsity, said staff at long-term care facilities are overworked and underpaid.

"What happens, unfortunately, in a number of long-term care centres and PDD, is you've got individuals working for deplorably low wages, large patient-to-caregiver ratios, insufficient number of even (licensed practical nurses), never mind registered nurses."

Caregiver no longer at facility

The caregiver involved in the Calgary scalding no longer works for the agency in question, which still has clients under its care.

In making the latest death public on Monday, VanderBurg could not say whether the province has any regulations about temperature gauges or anti-scalding devices.

"This is an incident that's caused me not to sleep a few nights," VanderBurg said in Edmonton.

The provincial investigation into the scalding is to be finished in January and the findings will be turned over to Calgary police.