All Hamilton long-term-care homes set to be fully air-conditioned
Posted: November 11, 2021
(November 10, 2021)
By: Maria Iqbal, Spectator Reporter
All Hamilton long-term-care homes are set to become fully air-conditioned as early as next year after a summer with multiple heat alerts.
Seven local facilities are adding AC units to resident bedrooms, according to the Ministry of Long-Term Care. They are Extendicare Hamilton, Parkview Nursing Centre, Ridgeview, the Meadows, Queen’s Garden, Regina Gardens and Chartwell Willowgrove.
The latter three are under Chartwell Retirement Residences, which is installing the units in 17 of its 23 facilities across Ontario. The work is expected to be complete “before the next cooling season,” said Chartwell spokesperson Sharon Ranalli in an email.
The homes had air conditioning only in common areas before the change, which is the ministry’s minimum requirement. The remaining Hamilton facilities are already fully air-conditioned, the ministry said.
Though the weather is getting cooler with fall, climate change means Hamilton can expect hotter summers and longer heat waves. For example, last summer saw humidex values forecast to be up to 40 C and air pollution due to smoke from forest fires in northern Ontario. Older residents are often more vulnerable to heat-related health problems.
The upgrades follow provincial funding for cooling announced earlier this year.
New provincial rules took effect in May that stop short of making air conditioning mandatory in resident rooms, despite Premier Doug Ford’s pledge to do so in July 2020.
“Sometimes (staff) don’t have an opportunity to bring these patients, especially now, into these common areas,” Ford said last year. “I can’t imagine sitting there in 27 or 28 degrees of heat in a room. It’s just unacceptable.”
The new rules require homes to have air conditioning at least in designated cooling areas, a standard the ministry said all 626 of the province’s homes meet. Homes without central AC must have one cooling area per 40 residents. In 2020, nearly 13 per cent of facilities had no air conditioning at all, the province said.
The Ontario Health Coalition’s executive director noted there aren’t always enough staff to bring residents to common rooms, and the areas can’t necessarily support 40 residents at the same time, especially during COVID.
“The problem is, there’s no clear definition on what a ‘common area’ is,” said Natalie Mehra. “We have to recognize that most of (the residents) spend most of their time in their rooms.”
The province says 69 per cent of its 626 care facilities are fully air-conditioned as of Oct. 25, including in resident rooms. Last year, only 42 per cent were.
Since the summer, homes must now submit daily temperature logs for any resident room that doesn’t have air conditioning, ministry spokesperson Aslan Hart said in an email.
If residents or visitors have concerns, they can complain to the ministry for an inspection, Hart added, noting the province is tracking heat-related complaints daily which inspectors deal with “in a timely manner.”
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