Alberta government appears to extend E. coli compensation program to more daycares

CALGARY — The Alberta government appears to have extended a one-time payment of $2,000 for each child affected by an E. coli outbreak in Calgary to 19 daycares as it is set to provide an update on the investigation.

Alberta Children and Family Services posted a link to an online application form on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, this week.

"Eligible families affected by a full or partial child care closure or an exclusion order due to the E. coli outbreak, declared by AHS on Sept. 4, can now apply for the one-time compassionate payment," said the Monday post, which was reposted by Alberta Health.

The post linked to a website with tabs to apply for the program and a link to the list of daycares, which includes the original 11 facilities affected by the outbreak as well as eight others that have since had partial or full closures due to secondary transmission.

Minister Searle Turton also put out a Facebook post about the program.

"I want to reassure families that they can place their trust in our high-quality child care system," he said.

"Alberta's government will be providing eligible families, whose child care program was fully closed, or directly affected by a partial closure or exclusion order due to the E. coli outbreak declared on Sept. 4, with a one-time payment of $2,000 per child."

The post said the government would provide more details about the application process and eligibility criteria in the coming days.

Alberta Children and Family Services declined to comment Tuesday, so it wasn't immediately clear how much more the program would cost or how many people would receive payments.

The program was initially expected to cost more than $2.5 million for nearly 1,300 children.

A spokeswoman for the department said in an email later in the day that questions about the program would be answered at a Wednesday news conference on the investigation into the E. coli outbreak.

That news conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Calgary with Premier Danielle Smith, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange, Turton and Dr. Mark Joffe, chief medical officer of health.

Smith said last week that the compensation program would only be available to parents of the 11 daycares at the root of the outbreak, which put dozens of children in hospital and caused hundreds more to fall ill with the bacterial infection.

Investigators were still looking for the source, but have previously said it almost certainly came from a central kitchen used by the daycares.

As of Thursday, when the provincial health authority last provided an update, there were six children still receiving care at the Alberta Children's Hospital and two remained on dialysis. There were 349 lab-confirmed cases of the bacterial infection and a total of 29 secondary cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press