Staying cool in the sweltering heat is a challenge, especially for seniors living at Hilltop Manor and other long term care facilities where there is no air conditioning.

On the main floor of the Cambridge facility the temperature was measured at 31.7 C around midday, less than two degrees cooler than it was outside at the time.

Barbara Cormier was there visiting her mother, Violet Bentley, for lunch on Friday.

“Upstairs it’s really hot, even with the fan so we come here and we bring her outside when we come,” she says.

Staff offer residents extra fluid and suggest cooler areas to rest, like the dining room.

Andrea Brissette, director of resident care at Hilltop, says they follow all the provincial guidelines.

“All of them have a fan…we do heat risk assessments on our residents so we have policies that we follow. Certain residents have more of a risk.”

The lucky ones have window air conditioning units provided by their families.

Not everyone feels that enough is being done to help the most vulnerable.

John Hoshoian is studying to become a personal support worker. On Friday, the second day of his co-op placement at Hilltop, he walked off the job.

“Something’s wrong with our system. We treat old people with no dignity. I was taught that we’re supposed to be patient advocates.”

He says the conditions, both for residents and those working at the facility, are unbearable and he won’t return.

“If this was my mother I’d be hauling her out so fast it would make their heads spin. I think people should get their families out of this place.”

After he complained, crews from local public health and Cambridge Fire were on scene to investigate Friday morning.

Neil Main, deputy chief of operations for Cambridge Fire, says “It’s warm everywhere with this heat wave going on, but they did not find the heat excessive at Hilltop Manor.”

He says his crews found proper emergency preparedness measures were in place. Local public health also gave the all-clear.

The Ministry of Health says it is still determining if an inspection is needed, but there is no provincial regulation that requires air conditioning.

Regardless Hoshoian says “It’s just wrong, and if somebody thinks it’s alright to hurt – I don’t know what’s happening at this place. I just know that I wouldn’t allow my animals in that place at all.”

He is planning to start an advocacy group for people with concerns in the health care industry.

Meanwhile, construction on a brand new, air conditioned building for Hilltop’s residents is expected to be completed next month.