Workers not warned about risky patient

An interim safety report says Persons with Development Disabilities Central Region failed to warn mental health workers of the risk posed by Terrance Saddleback before he allegedly strangled a Camrose worker.

An interim safety report says Persons with Development Disabilities Central Region failed to warn mental health workers of the risk posed by Terrance Saddleback before he strangled a Camrose worker.

In February, Valerie Wolski, 41, was found strangled inside the home where she cared for Saddleback, 26, who required 24-hour supervision.

Saddleback was charged with manslaughter but was found unfit to stand trial.

Wolski worked for East Central Canadian Mental Health Association in Camrose, which was contracted by PDD Central Region.

The Occupational Health and Safety’s investigation is not yet complete, but the interim report by a provincial OHS officer said PDD “caused to exist a danger to the health or safety of the workers of contracted employers.”

“The failure of PDD to provide CMHA with a copy of the risk assessment prevented CMHA from realizing the hazard posed by the new client,” the client contact report said.

“In addition, there are no files, records, correspondence or statements from workers to indicate that PDD made an effort to co-ordinate a meeting between CMHA and WDACS (Wetaskiwin and District Association for Community Services).”

WDACS cared for Saddleback for 19 years before CMHA took over. In 2009, male and female WDACS workers were assaulted by Saddleback and RCMP were required.

As a result of the interim report, PDD Central Region was ordered to take measures to protect workers, including providing hazardous assessments and emergency response plan to service providers for workers that may pose a risk to workers.

The six regional PDD authorities are under the responsibility of the provincial Department of Seniors and Community Supports.

Seniors and Community Supports Minister Mary Anne Jablonski said all PDDs immediately reviewed their safety procedures after Wolski died.

“As soon as we got word of the incident, we didn’t even wait for the OHS report. We immediately went into action and had the six PDD regions conduct their own internal risk assessment to make sure that complex clients were being supported safely,” Jablonski said on Wednesday.

“I’m confident they were practising the safety standards and if they weren’t the risk assessment would bring that to light.”

She said PDD procedures require information to be shared with service providers and community agencies through risk assessments and planning sessions that include face-to-face meetings, teleconference and site visits.

“PDD Central has co-operated fully with the OHS orders and they have shared the recommendations with the other five regions so if there was something in the recommendations that needed to be highlighted, all regions have done that,” said Jablonski, the Red Deer North MLA.

Stephen Golub, manager corporate development with PDD Central Region, said only a very small number of the 1,850 PDD clients in the region would be high risk and the authority has complied fully with the OHS order and will continue to do so.

“Risk management is a routine part of our operation and we do have processes in place to try and ensure the best possible planning for services for people with developmental disabilities, including those with complex needs,” Golub said.

Alberta Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said he won’t prejudge PDD Central Region.

“I have asked my officers to conduct a thorough and conclusive investigation,” Lukaszuk said.

He disregarded criticism that the interim report was only posted at the Red Deer PDD office rather than released to the public.

“That’s exactly what the law requires. Orders are never publicized because there are thousands of them issued, probably monthly.

“Issuing an order by way of a press release so you can print it in your newspaper will not make that place of employment any more safer or any more dangerous.”

The report is a public document and will be released upon request.

The executive director of East Central Canadian Mental Health Association was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

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