All long-term care homes in Ontario now have air conditioning accessible to all residents in designated common areas.
The implementation of air conditioned spaces is in compliance with a regulation implemented this spring and is a rollback of the Ontario government’s promise last spring of implementing air conditioning in all resident’s rooms.
The lack of air conditioning in long-term care homes came to the forefront last summer as residents were forced to isolate in their rooms without access to air conditioning.
According to provincial Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, the implementation of accessible air conditioning spaces is a major improvement for residents.
While the implementation of air conditioning in areas of all long-term care homes is seen as improvement, when asked about cooling alternatives in resident’s rooms, Fullerton explained that the mandating of fans presented concerns about the
transmissibility of air-borne viruses such as COVID-19.
In response to the province’s plan, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore applauded the implementation of air conditioning areas and expressed his support for a plan that includes individual
fanning and evaporative cooling systems.
“In a prolonged heat event, you’ll need both a cooling room and fanning and evaporative heat loss to keep these elderly and frail people from succumbing to hyperthermia,” Moore said in a media call on Friday.
While he respects the need to weigh the risks of disease transmission, Moore pointed out that the health risks of overheating are quite significant, especially in a long-term care setting.
“You’ll always have to do a risk analysis — whether there’s any COVID activity in the long-term care facilities or any other infectious disease risks — but in a prolonged heat event, I don’t think there’d be any choice but to try and cool as many people
as possible using fanning, evaporative heat loss and having a cooling room. That should be a plan embraced by every LTC for any extreme climate change event,” Moore said.
Currently in Kingston, all long-term care homes have air conditioned spaces accessible to residents, but not all homes have air conditioning in individual residents’ rooms.