By failing to enforce a deadline mandating long-term care operators to install air conditioning in all resident rooms, Ontario’s PC government has again left frail and vulnerable residents to suffer, this time in scorching heat.

“The Premier’s lip-service to the importance of air conditioning in long-term care homes just isn’t good enough. His government needed to make sure that these units were being installed in every resident room without one before we hit this summer’s scorching heat. The PC’s failed to do that,” says Debra Maxfield, a front-line personal support worker and chair of CUPE’s Health Care Workers Coordinating Committee.

As the news broke last month that nearly 100 homes had not met the deadline to install air conditioning in resident rooms, little has been done in advance of Ontario’s days long heatwave, which has continued to create unbearable and dangerous conditions that put frail residents at risk.

Maxfield added, “To the Premier, I say: residents are vulnerable, and you are letting them suffer. You need to address this immediately. You cannot fail those living in long-term care again.”

Legislation passed by the provincial government in 2021 required all long-term care facilities in the province to have air conditioning in resident rooms by June 22, 2022, but recent reports indicate that – one month later – 90 homes still lack air conditioning. 57 of those are for-profit homes.

CUPE is calling for an immediate retrofitting of homes that currently lack air conditioning to ensure the safety of frail and vulnerable residents. “These are bad operators, and we require immediate action to ensure the safety of all residents and staff. Seniors have already paid the price, and more will suffer without immediate access to air conditioning. This is not the time for the government to continue to be absent,” asserted Maxfield.

Long-term care homes functioning air conditioning is a major health and safety concern, especially during the height of the summer heatwave.

The impacts of prolonged heat are severe and exacerbate staffing challenges in a sector already struggling with a staff crisis. In extreme heat and no air condition, additional staff are needed to ensure that the staff themselves are taking adequate breaks and are sufficiently hydrated to be able to make sure that residents get enough care and water.