The Alberta government will immediately give families $2,000 for each child affected by an E. coli outbreak related to several Calgary daycares, Premier Danielle Smith said Friday.
“Families are having a tough time with a lot of disruptions. Some have spent days and nights watching their children in pain in the hospital or sick at home, and we understand that this has put families under a lot of stress and a lot of financial stress,” she said.
“We want to help ease as much of that stress as we can. And that includes the financial strain this has caused due to parents being away from work and caring for their kids.”
Smith got choked up at a news conference as she described the anguish and broken trust affected families must be feeling, at one point taking a long pause to regain her composure.
Her announcement came a day after parents with children in the daycares sent an open letter asking Smith to do more to deal with the situation.
“None of us suspected our children were at risk of ingesting E. coli while in childcare,” said the letter, which had nearly 1,000 e-signatures on Friday. “We trusted not only our daycare facility but that the government itself had regulations in place that were keeping them safe.
“We would like to know why we have not heard from you.”
Smith said she understands the parents’ frustration but that she didn’t want to interfere in the medical care of the children or the public health investigation into the source of the outbreak.
“We didn’t have answers,” she said, noting the province is conducting a review of all shared kitchens in the province and would look into new regulations for food safety.
Investigators were still looking for the source of the outbreak, but health officials have said it almost certainly came from a central kitchen used by the 11 daycares.
Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the situation remains very serious.
“However, we are somewhat heartened by the fact that it appears that the number of patients in hospital has stabilized over the last couple of days,” he said.
There have been 337 lab-confirmed cases of the bacterial infection related to the outbreak that was declared on Sept. 4.
Twelve children were still in hospital, 10 of whom have hemolytic uremic syndrome — a complication affecting the blood and kidneys. Six of those children were receiving dialysis.
Joffe said there have been 26 secondary transmission cases, all of whom live within households linked to the outbreak.
The daycares related to the outbreak have all reopened, but Joffe said the central kitchen is closed indefinitely.