A Red Deer woman with breathing problems said her life was jeopardized when Enmax cut off electricity to her apartment on Monday, leaving her stranded without a working ventilator or telephone.
“It was pretty terrifying, wondering if someone was going to check on me,” said Linda Stilling, whose power was shut down at about 10 a.m. because of an unpaid bill.
It wasn’t until 1:30 p.m. that Stilling’s situation was discovered by her niece Crystal Dmitruk.
Dmitruk was worried after being unable to reach her sick relative by telephone, and asked the building manager to unlock her aunt’s apartment door at 2936-50th Ave.
She said she found Stilling too scared to leave her bed.
Without electricity, her aunt couldn’t use her electric breathing apparatus, and she was unable to call Lifeline for help. Dmitruk said the private emergency service was connected to Stilling’s phone. But her aunt’s telephone is not a regular land line. When her electricity was cut, her phone automatically switched to voice mail.
“I had no phone, I had no Lifeline. I was afraid of taking another fall . . . My health is too fragile,” added Stilling, who felt her only option was to stay in bed and wait for assistance to arrive.
The 61-year-old, who’s on a disability pension, had only moved back to Alberta from B.C. last month after suffering a series of serious health setbacks, including a fractured spine, shingles and a resulting infection.
Dmitruk, who maintains Stilling’s Enmax account was only in arrears because her aunt never received her first bill, is afraid to think what could have happened to Stilling had she not checked on her. “This is pretty upsetting for us. This could have cost us her life.”
Enmax spokesperson Doris Kaufmann-Woodcock confirmed that Stilling had been scheduled to have her power cut off after not paying her first month’s power bill, which included a $150 deposit.
However, she admitted an Enmax customer service representative had made an error by not cancelling the pending power cut-off after Dmitruk called on Friday to arrange repayment of the amount Stilling owed.
“Because it was our error . . . we credited (Stilling’s) account for $75,” added Kaufmann-Woodcock. This was the first payment Dmitruk had arranged towards her aunt’s overdue account.
Dmitruk said the balance was supposed to be paid by Sept. 30 and the power to Stilling’s apartment was not supposed to be turned off until Oct. 1. But this date was disputed by Kaufmann-Woodcock, who said Enmax’s records indicate the power cut off was to be Monday, two weeks after the payment deadline.
Regardless, Stilling questioned why the company did not call to notify her that her electricity would be cut. Stilling said her niece had informed the Enmax service representative on Friday that she depends on an electric ventilator and would be jeopardized if she lost power.
“They should have had the decency to call. It was only $150 (owing) not even $200.”
Kaufmann-Woodcock said any Enmax customer who requires electricity for health-related machinery should present a doctor’s note, and this information will be retained in the company’s account records.
These customers are never intentionally cut off from power — she said a minimum amount would be made available for vital equipment.
But in case of an accidental power outage, she added those who depend on electric equipment should always have a backup generator.