During a heat wave in July 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford vowed to impose air conditioning “quickly” in all long-term care homes, including residents’ rooms. Almost a year later, the province still has not done so.
Ford told reporters on July 8 that his government would act “immediately” to change the Long-Term Care Homes Act. The legislation requires homes without central air to provide at least one cooling zone for 40 residents and impose a minimum temperature of 22 C, but not a maximum temperature.
Ford himself pointed out the shortcomings of these requirements listed in Ontario’s Long-Term Care Homes Act.
“Right now in the bill it says that the common areas are air conditioned, but imagine someone sitting in a room on the third floor,” he said at a press conference last July.
“Sometimes [staff] do not have the possibility to bring these patients, especially now, in these common spaces. I can’t imagine sitting there in 27 or 28 degrees heat in a room, and that’s just plain wrong. “
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The Ministry of Long-Term Care told CBC News it had “gathered information about mechanical cooling systems in all homes” in February.
“We are using this information to work with the industry to ensure that adequate cooling systems are in place for this summer to improve the health and well-being of residents,” spokesman Mark Nesbitt said Tuesday. in a press release.
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Palliative care Dr Amit Arya said it “made no sense” that the province did not impose system-wide change, especially following scathing reports from the military and care commission long lasting on the deplorable conditions in the houses and the dehydration and neglect of the residents.
The military provided medical and humanitarian assistance to seven homes in Ontario as the system was overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases last spring.
“The renovations, whether it’s correcting overcrowding or making sure we have air conditioning, should have already been well underway and ready for the summer,” Arya said.
“I mean, it’s no surprise that we have hot weather right now, so I don’t understand why it hasn’t been done.”
Ford’s announcement last year followed reports of residents confined to their stuffy rooms during lockdowns linked to the pandemic and their families and advocates demanding urgent change.
Families remain frustrated
Nick Puopolo was among those calling for action. While visiting his 85-year-old mother at the Woodbridge Vista Care Community, he measured the temperature in her room and found it to be 27 ° C.
Following Ford’s announcement last July, Puopolo hoped that next summer would be different. Now he is even more frustrated.
Ford “shows up that he really cares and is going to get it fixed,” he said. “And these are just words. There is no action on words.”
The residents’ families have been pushing for Sienna Senior Living to install air conditioning throughout the Woodbridge Vista property, not just in the common areas, Puopolo said.
Even now, he said, hundreds of fully vaccinated residents remain confined to their warm rooms as the home continues to grapple with COVID-19 outbreaks.
Sienna Senior Living, which is a for-profit company, emailed the residents’ families in May to say they were installing air conditioning throughout the house. Puopolo said the house told him the central air conditioning installation should be completed by the end of June.
It’s a small victory for Woodbridge Vista, but Puopolo wonders if it would have happened without relentless family activism. That’s why he says the province must make air conditioning mandatory in all homes.
“We keep pushing the leaders, we keep involving the media to put pressure on them and they do,” Puopolos said.
Houses now have a cooling system in common areas
Ontario has funded air conditioning in long-term care homes and they are all now code compliant with cooling spaces in common areas, according to Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, which represents 70 % of -for-profit, charitable and municipal nursing homes in Ontario.
Homes are working on installing air conditioning in residents’ rooms, but she said that was impractical for some older facilities.
“Regardless of ownership, everyone is stepping up and doing what they can… to find solutions house by house,” Duncan said. “Overall, we are very pleased with the progress made over the past year.”
Ontario’s largest for-profit long-term care operators Extendicare, Chartwell Retirement Residences and Revera did not respond to questions about air-conditioned accommodations in resident rooms. Duncan said she was not sure what percentage of homes have air conditioning in their facilities.
Sienna Senior Living said it meets Ontario’s cooling requirements by providing air conditioning in common areas and has inspected residents’ rooms.
“We are actively looking for long and short term solutions to ensure that mechanical cooling requirements are in place not only to meet but, if possible, exceed minimum requirements,” said spokesperson Nadia Daniell-Colarossi.