In record-breaking heat, a deadline to provide air conditioning in residents’ rooms at Ontario long-term care homes has passed, with some seniors still waiting.
Legislation passed last year required homes to provide AC in all bedrooms by June 22, 2022.
Premier Doug Ford first made the pledge in the summer of 2020 after slamming owners of long-term care, saying he would like to “stick them in the (hot) rooms for 24 hours at 30 degree heat and see how they like it.”
Mary Ann Flynn’s aunt lives in a room without air conditioning at a long-term care home in Lindsay, Ont. While Flynn says operators need to do more, she lays some blame at the feet of the Premier.
“The iron ring that he promised us to protect our loved ones and our seniors has not been fulfilled. I’m disappointed and angry.”
CTV News asked the Ministry of Long-Term Care Tuesday how many homes do not yet have resident room AC and did not receive a response by deadline Wednesday.
Caressant Care, says five of its 15 homes are without in-suite AC, including the one where Flynn’s aunt lives.
Caressant Care spokesperson Stuart Oakley expects installation of rooftop units that will pump cold air into residents’ rooms to start in July.
In an email, Oakley attributes the delay to supply chain hiccups and demand. He says the units the home needs require specially made units and can take as long as 16 weeks to be delivered.
Flynn finds the wait frustrating.
“When a corporation makes millions of dollars and this does not become a priority for them – the comfort of the people that they supply care to – it’s unacceptable.”
Oakley says Caressant Care has a plan to provide fans and portable AC units until permanent cooling is installed.
Ministry guidelines allow for temperatures as high as 26 Celsius inside long-term care homes.
Flynn says temperature checks are done regularly and if a higher reading is registered, residents will be moved to areas with air conditioning: dining areas, lounges and hallways.
Dr. Amir Arya, the palliative care lead at Toronto’s Kensington Gardens Long-Term Care sees cooling areas as an unsustainable stop-gap for seniors with limited mobility and who are more susceptible to heat.
“As you become older, your physiology changes where you’re less likely to feel thirsty. And what that means is by the time you are feeling thirsty, you might be mildly dehydrated,” Dr. Arya says.
He stresses that moving residents and adding hot weather checks increases the workload of already stretched thin personal support workers.
“They may not have enough time in some long-term care facilities to monitor someone’s hydration status and even to sit down and take the half an hour or longer that it may take even for some of the vulnerable residents to have a glass of water.”