12/12/2011 05:03 EST | Updated 02/11/2012 05:12 EST

Alberta Scalding Death Investigation: Man Was Under Care Of Calgary Agency

EDMONTON - The Alberta government says it is investigating what led to a person in provincial care dying after being scalded in bath water.

The investigation began in late October right after the person with developmental disabilities was injured, Seniors Minister George VanderBurg said Monday.

The person died in hospital late last month.

VanderBurg said the government delayed announcement of the scalding and the investigation to give the family time to grieve. No information on the person or the circumstances was released.

"I have too much respect for the family to take this out on the street," VanderBurg said.

The minister was similarly tight-lipped about the provincially contracted Calgary agency that employed the caregiver involved.

"They're a contractor that's provided service for a number of years for the region," he said. "I can tell you that the care provider no longer works with that agency."

The agency was funded by the province's Persons with Developmental Disabilities program. All families with relatives still being cared for by that agency have been informed, VanderBurg said.

He also said that all agencies that work within the program have been notified of the scalding. They also been told to review their safety practices and check hot-water heaters in their facilities and in homes where they have clients that need help to bathe.

The government has volunteered to pay for anti-scalding devices in such homes.

VanderBurg said he hopes to make sure such devices will be installed in all homes run by agencies. He said the province contracts with more than 650 such agencies.

"I can't tell you why they're not mandatory," he said. "But I can tell you it's a strong desire of the ministry today that these water-testing devices should be installed."

The devices were recommended in 2004 after a 90-year-old woman with Alzheimer's died after being lowered into scalding bathwater. The woman died nine weeks after suffering second-degree burns to nearly a quarter of her body.

In that case, one health aide ran the bath using only the hot water tap because it was the first bath of the morning. The other aide didn't test the water temperature before lowering the woman into it.

The latest investigation is expected to be complete early in the new year and is to be delivered to the minister and to Calgary police, who have been informed of what happened.

It's not clear if the report will be made public.

VanderBurg said a fatality inquiry may also be held.

"I would think it would be appropriate for me to ask the fatality inquiry board to investigate."

VanderBurg said the scalding has been very troubling.

"I have little granddaughters and a grandson that I bathe and I can't imagine this happening. But it did."

Alberta has about 9,400 people in care under the Persons with Developmental Disabilities program.