All Ontario long-term care homes now have air conditioning, but not all have them in resident rooms

TORONTO — All of Ontario’s long-term care homes now have air conditioning in some capacity, but advocates say that it isn’t enough to help seniors beat the heat.

The government announced Thursday that 626, or 100 per cent, of long-term care homes have designated cooling areas served by air conditioning. Speaking to reporters virtually, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton said that last year 13 per cent of homes had no air conditioning at all.

“I’m pleased to say that residents and staff in long-term care will be comfortable and cool this summer,” Fullerton said. “Long-term care homes without proper air conditioning in the summer is not only uncomfortable, but it is a health risk. That’s why, in April of this year, we updated regulations under the long-term care act to require that all designated cooling areas in Ontario long-term care homes have air conditioning by May 15, 2021.

Fullerton went on to say that this is the first time air conditioning has been mandated in Ontario long-term care homes.

Prior to the change in April, the Long-Term Care Homes Act mandated that every licensee should ensure that if central air conditioning is not available, the home needs to have at least one separate designated cooling area for every 40 residents.

The new regulations added by the Progressive Conservative government will “require designated cooling areas of all homes be served by air conditioning and be maintained at a comfortable level during specified periods and which will enhance the effectiveness of enforcement.”

Following the announcement, long-term care advocate Vivian Stamatopoulos told CP24 that she “has no idea what that means,” but that there are still 289 homes that do not have air conditioning in resident rooms.

“That is a big problem,” she said. “The legislation states that these homes must have air conditioning in the common areas, which is effectively useless since the majority of residents spend the vast majority of their time in the home in their rooms.”

Stamatopoiulos said that the announcement was “nothing other than a little bit of PR.”

“They have to say this is not good enough, that we need to make sure that the residents’ rooms have air conditioning, whether that means you foot the bill and you make sure there are window units installed.”

Fullerton said that staff will be responsible for monitoring the temperature in the homes and that the homes should stay below 26 C.

According to the province, about 60 per cent of homes are fully air conditioned, including resident rooms. An additional 23 per cent of homes are working towards being fully air conditioned.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised in July 2020 to make air conditioning mandatory in long-term care homes. The promise came a month after Ford slammed owners of long-term care, saying he would “like to stick them in the rooms for 24 hours at 30 degree heat and see how they like it.”

On Thursday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that Ford and Fullerton broke their promise by not ensuring all resident rooms had air conditioning.

“Right now in the bill it says common areas are air conditioned, but just imagine someone sitting up in a third storey room,” she said in a statement. “Sometimes [staff] don’t have an opportunity to bring these patients, especially now, into these common areas. I can’t imagine sitting there in 27 or 28 degrees of heat in a room, and it’s just unacceptable.”

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