HomeHealthIn a first for Ontario, two not-for-profit nursing homes fined for not having air conditioning

In a first for Ontario, two not-for-profit nursing homes fined for not having air conditioning

In a first for Ontario, two not-for-profit nursing homes fined for not having air conditioning

Two not-for-profit nursing homes in London and Sarnia are each facing fines of $1,100 for failing to install air conditioning in all residents’ rooms as required by law.

The financial penalties levied Thursday by the ministry of long-term care are the first to be issued and come with orders to put proper cooling systems in place. They follow an inspection blitz at nursing homes that missed a June 22 air conditioning deadline set in the Fixing Long-Term Care Act passed last year.

The McCormick Home in London and Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia have been given until Sept. 16 to get price quotes from air conditioning contractors and could face bigger penalties if they don’t. They must also post on their websites that resident bedrooms do not have air conditioning and report room temperatures daily, the orders state.

“After months of working with these homes, and offering to fully fund these projects, it’s very clear they have no intention to comply with our government’s legislation and that action is required,” Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said in a statement Thursday.

“This is the first of many steps that can and will be taken if we do not see any willingness from these homes to get up to standard, including further financial penalties and ultimately suspending or revoking licenses.”

The Star left telephone messages seeking comment from both nursing homes.

“This summer has been particularly hot with several heat warnings issued … which highlights the need for and importance of ensuring that all resident bedrooms are air-conditioned,” states the compliance order for McCormick Home, operated by the Women’s Christian Association of London.

A July inspection report by ministry inspectors on the Sarnia home found temperatures were not recorded at times in May and June or topped 26 C in several rooms.

“Living in a warm or hot environment without sufficient air conditioning puts residents at risk for dehydration, delirium, increased risk of falling and heat-related illnesses,” said the London compliance order.

Critics have repeatedly pressed Premier Doug Ford’s government to take stronger action against nursing homes that are not fully air-conditioned, saying the hot conditions are dangerous and inhumane for residents typically coping with multiple medical conditions in a summer that has seen the humidex top 40 C at times.

“We have 79 care homes that have no air conditioning as of this weekend,” New Democrat MPP Wayne Gates (Niagara Falls) noted in the legislature’s daily question period in an exchange with Calandra on Monday.

The government has said some homes have not been able to install full air conditioning systems in time to meet the deadline, citing global supply chain problems, outbreaks of COVID-19 and restrictions that prevented contractors from entering homes to install air-conditioning at various periods during the pandemic.

To date, 554 of the 627 nursing homes in Ontario have air conditioning in residents’ rooms and another 24 are expected to do so by Sept. 22 — although the sweltering summer weather will likely have dissipated by then.

That would leave 49 homes across the province with no air conditioning in residents’ rooms. All nursing homes in the province have air-conditioned common areas where residents can escape the heat, but must return to their rooms to sleep.

Ford’s government passed the legislation requiring air conditioning in the wake of troubling conditions at nursing homes in the COVID-19 pandemic, including high infection and death rates.

This article was first reported by The Star.