All long-term care homes now have AC, but not all resident rooms do
KITCHENER -- On the back of the province's announcement that every long-term care home in Ontario now has air conditioning, advocates are decrying the fact that not all residents have it in their rooms.
The issue of air conditioning in care homes came to light last summer, as many homes battled both COVID-19 and uncomfortable heat.
Amid the pandemic, some residents were forced to isolate themselves in their rooms with no air conditioning.
Thursday, Ontario announced all long-term care homes have either AC or a designated cooling area.
"All 626 have informed us that they are in compliance," Minister of Long-term Care Merrilee Fullerton said at a press conference. "Staff will be required to monitor this, the top end of the temperature range is 26 degrees."
But a long-term care home researcher at the University of Waterloo says that's not good enough.
"We can't just assume that everyone can crowd into this one space to be adequately cooled," said John Hirdes with the School of Public Health and Health Systems.
Some 60 per cent of homes are now fully air-conditioned, up from 40 per cent last year.
Forest Heights Revera in Kitchener is one of them.
It was Waterloo Region's hardest-hit home during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, with more than 250 cases and 51 deaths.
"Forest Heights is fully air-conditioned. Common areas and corridors are cooled centrally and there are heating-cooling units in each individual resident room," Larry Roberts, Revera's director of communication, said in a statement.
It's unclear which homes in Waterloo Region don't have full air condition.
Fullerton says the province is working on getting cooling into the remainder of homes, adding fans in resident rooms aren't currently an option because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The use of fans creates currents of airflow which can be an issue with transmission of COVID-19 within the home, so we have to be very cautious," she said.
While senior care advocates say this is a move in the right direction, they add more needs to be done to address other issues like staffing shortages and fixing outdated facilities.