Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, along with Alberta Health Services officials, are set to provide an update on the E. coli outbreak in Calgary Friday.
This comes after an outbreak of E. coli at several Calgary daycares, which has resulted in hundreds of lab-confirmed cases of E. coli and some children in hospital and on dialysis.
Smith, Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Children and Family Services Searle Turton, Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Franco Rizzutti, medical officer of health in the Calgary Zone with AHS, and Dr. Tania Principi, section chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Alberta Children’s Hospital, are all scheduled to speak.
That media conference is slated to start at 9:30 a.m. Watch that conference live here.
In her first interview about an E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares that spread to more than 300 children, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she’s directed her government to come up with a proposal to financially help affected families.
Since the outbreak was declared on Sept. 4, prompting the closure of 11 daycares and the common kitchen where the outbreak is believed to have originated, there have been 329 lab-confirmed cases — almost all children. At least 20 have been severely ill with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), although some have since recovered, and six are currently on dialysis.
Speaking to host Kathleen Petty on the CBC’s West of Centre podcast Thursday, the premier hinted at the measures her government would take to aid parents and figure out how the outbreak occurred.
Smith was asked if the government was looking at compensation, since many people had to miss work to provide childcare or paid for daycare for the month of September and then shelled out more money to make alternate arrangements.
“That’s the direction I’ve given to the ministry, is to come forward with a proposal [Friday] and so we’ll have a whole suite of things that we’ll be proposing,” said Smith.
“There are some families that just simply don’t feel comfortable returning their loved ones back to these facilities, so we’ve got to find another option for them.”
Smith is scheduled to hold a news conference on the issue Friday morning, where she is expected to provide more details about financial assistance and the possibility of new regulations for shared kitchens and food safety.
Her comments came a day after a number of parents who have children that attend the impacted daycares sent an open letter to the premier, where they addressed Smith’s lack of public comment in the 10 days since the outbreak was declared and asking about government support.
Until Tuesday, all communication regarding the outbreak had come through Alberta Health Services. On that day, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Mark Joffe, and Health Minister Adriana LaGrange took to the podium to answer questions and speak about the outbreak. Alberta Health Services said major health issues, including cockroach infestations, unsafe food handling and previous violations, were found at the common kitchen where the outbreak is believed to have originated.
“You don’t, as a politician, want to interfere when the doctors are the ones who need to respond,” Smith told CBC’s West of Centre in response to a question about the letter.
“We had the doctors come out last week informing people what was happening, making sure that all of the parents knew what to expect.”
Public inquiry not out of the question, Smith says
Smith said she’s not ruling anything out, including a public inquiry, when it comes to finding out exactly how the outbreak occurred and the emergency unfolded.
“Whichever form it takes,” she said.
“I mean, we’ve got to get to the answers so that we can put the regulatory changes in place. Absolutely.”
In a statement sent Tuesday, the Alberta NDP demanded a full inquiry into the outbreak, saying the families impacted deserve answers and accountability.
“The government needs to be focused on providing high-quality health care to Albertans impacted during this crisis while also delivering real answers on how we got here,” Diana Batten, Alberta NDP critic for childcare, child and family services, said in the statement.
Cases rising, hospitalization numbers decreasing
On Thursday morning, in its daily update regarding the E. coli outbreak, Alberta Health Services said that for the second consecutive day, the number of children in hospital with severe illness had declined.
The number of lab-confirmed cases connected to the outbreak has continued to climb, to 329.
However, as of Thursday morning, there were 13 patients receiving care in hospital, all children. Eight children had been discharged since Wednesday and were now recovering at home, AHS said.
In total, 20 patients had been discharged from hospital since the beginning of the outbreak, including 19 children and one adult.
There were still 11 patients confirmed as having hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) — six of which were on dialysis.
Eight patients had recovered from HUS since Wednesday and one patient no longer required dialysis, AHS said.
“While case numbers continue to increase as test results come back from the lab, the number of patients in hospital is falling,” AHS said in its statement.
“Those patients with more severe illness are in stable condition and responding to treatment. Our frontline healthcare teams continue to provide them with the very best care and support possible.”
AHS said there had been 22 secondary transmissions, all of which are within households linked to the outbreak.
The centralized kitchen that supplied food to the impacted daycares remains closed until further notice.