There is still no requirement for air conditioning in all residents’ rooms, but Ontario long-term care home operators now have to implement prescribed measures to prevent heat-related illnesses and routinely monitor and document indoor temperatures. A newly enacted provincial regulation stipulates that long-term care homes must provide access to cooling from May 15 to September 15, and on any other day when Environment Canada forecasts the outdoor temperature will reach at least 26 degrees Celsius or interior temperatures climb to that level.
“With the hot summer weather now upon us, it is more important than ever to ensure that the residents living in Ontario’s long-term care homes are kept cool, healthy and safe,” maintains Samantha Peck, executive director of Family Councils of Ontario.
As mandated in the new regulation, long-term care home license holders must prepare a written prevention and management plan for heat-related illnesses, which is to be evaluated annually and revised as necessary. Plans must identify and outline protocols for responding to heat-related risks, including staff responsibilities, monitoring and cooling equipment/systems and communication strategies.
The new regulation continues to exempt operators from installing central air conditioning if they provide one dedicated area per every 40 residents where temperatures are kept at “a comfortable level for residents”. However, unlike the previous circa-2010 rules, it stipulates that these areas must be maintained with a mechanical air cooling system.
Despite a previous mandated minimum temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, the Ontario government confirms that nearly 13 per cent of the province’s long-term care homes lacked any form of air conditioning last year. All 626 are now said to be in compliance with the new regulation, and 60 per cent now provide air conditioning in all residents’ rooms — up from just 42 per cent previously.
“We continue to correct for the decades of neglect in long-term care that were allowed under previous governments,” Premier Doug Ford asserts.
Operators are now additionally required to take temperature readings in various areas three times daily, including: at least two resident bedrooms in different areas of the building; a common area on every floor of the building; and every dedicated cooling area, where they exist. Temperatures are to be recorded every morning, afternoon and evening, and retained in a log for at least one year.