53-year-old New Hampshire grandmother Kay Phaneuf died this weekend after National Grid cut her power over an unpaid bill. Phaneuf suffered from a heart condition that required her to sleep in an oxygen tent and use a plug-in oxygen machine. The worker who disconnected the power after ringing Phaneuf’s bell and waiting several minutes at the door apparently didn’t notice a big red sign that warned people not to smoke because of the oxygen machine. National Grid is claiming they followed proper procedures, but that isn’t stopping New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission from opening an investigation.
David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid, said in a phone interview that the meter worker “had no record to indicate there was a medical note on the account.’’
“We follow the state regulations to protect the customer and to protect the company as well,’’ he said. “The last thing that we want to do is cut off a person’s service.’’
The account had included a medical notification, Graves said, but it had expired on May 15.
“We sent them a letter on April 30 advising them of the expiration, but there was no response,’’ Graves said. “We sent out a letter on June 1 advising them that service would be shut off no earlier than June 15, but they didn’t respond to that either. In our review of this event, we found nothing to indicate that we didn’t follow proper procedure. And there is nothing so far to indicate that the shutoff of electricity had anything to do with her medical emergency.’’
He said the company goes beyond the state’s 60-day medical notification requirement and gives 90 days.
The President of the company, Tom King, added: “[w]e take this matter very seriously…”
The Public Utilities Commissions has asked the company to produce a slew of records, and is working to make sure that other utilities adhere to their own procedures so that no other customers die such thoroughly avoidable deaths.