A number of Calgary parents say they're frustrated that the company that runs a series of daycares hit by an E. coli outbreak have yet to commit to offering full refunds for the month of September, instead offering credits for days affected by the closure.
That doesn't go far enough for parents who are no longer comfortable sending their children to the campuses, or for those who have faced financial impacts as a result of the outbreak.
Katie McLean's daughter is nearly two years old and attended the Fueling Brains Academy located in the McKnight neighbourhood. Her daughter was hospitalized, and was discharged on Sunday.
McLean said she has talked to her centre director, who advised her that the organization was meeting today to discuss each specific family's needs — but there has been no answer on a full refund yet, with only a credit offered for the days of the closure so far.
But she said the credit is not helpful for those who don't plan to return.
"What are we going to do with that credit? Parents that have been out of work, like myself all week, had to cancel all of my clients as an independent contractor," McLean said.
"I just lost 100 per cent of my income. I could really use that credit in the form of a refund, so that we would actually have the money in our pockets right now."
McLean said parents are charged at the end of each month for the subsequent month, meaning they were charged for September on Aug. 31. Alberta Health Services declared an outbreak of E. coli on Sept. 4.
The Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary on Sept. 12. More than 300 people, mostly children, have been infected in an E. coli outbreak linked to a number of daycares in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
Calgary parent Maria Prado's four-year-old son was also in hospital, but has since been discharged. After the experience, Prado's family decided they would not send him back to the daycare.
She sent an email on Sept. 9, asking for termination immediately and to be refunded, according to Prado. But they didn't hear back until Sept. 13, with the company telling Prado they would look into it.
"It adds to the stress we've been going through," Prado said.
In a statement to CBC News, Kent Hehr, the vice-president of Fueling Brains, said communicating with families has been the company's priority. He added the company has been sending out daily parent and staff messages to keep its community informed.
"Families affected by the closures will receive credits for the days impacted and further tuition solutions are being addressed on a case-by-case basis," he wrote in an email.
There are now 310 confirmed cases in the outbreak of the shiga toxin-producing E.coli, which can cause serious issues. Twenty children have the condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and seven are on dialysis.
On Tuesday, Alberta's chief medical officer of health shared a kitchen safety inspection report, which had found major issues at a shared kitchen at KidsU Centennial - Fueling Minds Inc., used by several daycares across the city. The inspections took place on Sept. 5.
On Sept. 8, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Fueling Brains by Cuming & Gillespie, a personal injury law firm located in downtown Calgary.
The lawsuit, which has yet to be certified, lists a parent and her infant daughter as plaintiffs.
It alleges that illnesses resulted out of "the negligent, unsanitary and unsafe food storage, preparation and handling practices of the defendants."
It seeks damages of no less than $150,000 per class member. The allegations have not been proven in court.
Craig Gillespie, a partner at Cuming & Gillespie, said the firm had been approached by "a number of families" with concerns.
In his statement, Hehr did not respond directly to a request for comment about the class-action lawsuit.