Parents of children infected by an E. coli outbreak in Calgary daycares want to hear more from Alberta’s premier about how she plans to protect children and families.
In an open letter sent to the premier’s office Thursday morning, the parents questioned why they haven’t heard public comments from Premier Danielle Smith.
“Surely the suffering of our children merits more communication than a single tweet,” the parents wrote, referencing a social media post on Sept. 10.
Global News has asked the premier’s office for comment.
The parents said when their children began to fall ill at the end of August – including with bloody diarrhea and children passing “their own flesh as they screamed in pain” – the Sept. 3 notification of the daycare-associated E. coli infection came as a surprise because they trusted their children’s daycares.
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“We sat in emergency rooms with their friends and fellow parents, stunned and looking for answers,” the parents wrote. “Some of our children went on to develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), some of them have kidney damage and some are receiving blood transfusions. Many of them continue to be admitted to hospital and (are) terribly ill.”
Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak on Sept. 4 and, on Wednesday, officials said 20 children were diagnosed with HUS and seven were on dialysis.
The parents expressed dissatisfaction with a provincial update on Sept. 12 that included the health minister, the minister of child and family services, the chief medical officer of health and a section chief from the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
“The recent press conference revealed nothing to regain our trust in the government’s ability to respond adequately to this situation,” the open letter reads.
Those parents want to know what, if any, consequences or follow-up will happen with the central kitchen AHS inspectors suspect is the source of the outbreak that, as of Wednesday, included 310 lab-confirmed cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.
“How can we rest assured they are safe to eat at any facility governed by this province when consequences for unsafe food practices do not exist? When did the ability of businesses to continue running become the priority over the safety of the public, especially our children? Is this what we can expect as the UCP continues to “cut the red tape?” the parents asked.
On Wednesday, Calgary Zone medical officer of health Dr. Franco Rizzuti said that violations found by health inspectors will often be corrected immediately, inspectors often revisit a site soon after, and education is a preferred approach as part of a “comprehensive strategy.”
“Typically within environmental public health, it is rare that we use legal routes to have formal closures,” Rizzuti said.
“Inspections are only one part of the toolkit.”
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The open letter also made an appeal for assistance while the parents, many who, without childcare, are unable to work and face added financial stress.
“Now is our time of need, now is when we need to know the leadership Albertans voted for will step up,” they wrote, noting their children are not of voting age.
“What are you going to do to protect our most vulnerable citizens and support their families?”
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