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Alberta Group Home Safety Rules Boosted After Disabled Man Scalded To Death

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CALGARY - Alberta is bringing in new safety standards after a mute, severely disabled man in government care died from scalding injuries he suffered while being bathed.

The victim, identified only as David, was living at a Calgary group home last October when he was burned below his waist and on his left hand and forearm. A staff member had left him alone to answer the door.

David, 35, wasn't sent to hospital for more than two hours after he was injured. He died five weeks later despite four separate surgeries.

"This tragedy has weighed heavily on my mind and I don't want something like this ever, ever to happen again," George VanderBurg, Alberta's minister of seniors, said Monday.

"So we've been working hard to put some new protective measures into place to help prevent another incident like this one."

A final report says David had severe epilepsy characterized by several types of seizures. Another staff member noticed his injuries when his skin began peeling off and that he had blisters on his hand.

VanderBurg said the government will spend $1.5 million to improve safety at about 1,000 Alberta group homes that have less than four occupants.

The changes will include installing temperature regulators, including anti-scald valves and improved bathing safety procedures.

Government investigators say what happened amounts to a case of abuse. Calgary police have been investigating since David died in November.

His family reacted to the government's announcement with anger and hope.

"We consider the incident that occurred on Oct. 23 to be an incomprehensible act of negligence. The negligence was not just in the severe burns David sustained while being bathed, but in what happened and did not happen in the 2.5 hours after he was burned," says the written statement from his father, mother and brother.

"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, 2.5 hours after he was injured."

The family said they can only hope that David's death will result in improvements to how people with disabilities in care are treated.

Dr. Alex Hilliyard, CEO of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, said it is important that the man's death not be in vain.

"We must do everything we can to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again here in Calgary or anywhere else in the province."

The upgrades to the group homes should be completed within a few months.