The Ontario government has proposed an amendment to an existing act that would fine long-term care (LTC) homes up to $25,000 if they fail to provide air-conditioning in all resident rooms.

The province says the proposed changes to the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, passed in 2021, are part of an “ongoing evolution of the legislative framework intended to enhance quality of care and quality of life for residents in long-term care homes.”

“We want to ensure that every long-term care resident can live comfortably, and that includes air-conditioning. The Ministry of Long-Term Care has worked with licensees on air conditioning since the summer of 2020, and 591 homes (over 94%) are now fully air conditioned,” said a spokesperson for Ontario’s Minister of Long-Term Care Paul Calandra.

“In anticipation of the coming summer season, we want all homes to know that we are serious about getting these important upgrades done. The proposed changes would strengthen our existing enforcement mechanisms for homes that do not comply with the air conditioning requirements.”

The province’s 627 LTC homes had been required to install air-conditioning in all resident rooms by June 22, 2022.

The amendment would also require air-conditioning to be added to the list of functions generators are required to support during a power failure.

Other proposed changes would see the loosening of educational requirements for certain roles.

One such provision would allow personal support workers who have received training in the administration of drugs - and who have been authorized by an LTC home’s nursing staff - to administer certain drugs to residents.

Another proposed change would require LTC homes to add COVID-19 vaccines to immunizations that must be offered to residents.

This proposed amendment comes days after the CEO of an organization that represents Ontario’s not-for-profit and municipal LTC homes said the new national standards for LTC are good, but more funding is urgently needed.

Earlier this week, Lisa Levin of AdvantAge Ontario said homes need funding for front-line staff, infection prevention and control, and better environments for residents to live in.

The Health Standards Organization released updated standards on Tuesday, including that residents should get at least four hours of direct care every day and that staff receive adequate and competitive compensation.

Calandra says the province will be looking at the standards but wouldn't want to -- quote -- "water down" what it's already doing, including a goal of an average of four hours of direct care per resident per day by 2025.

If the Ford government’s latest amendment is adopted, it would cost licensed LTC homes in the province around $53,000 each over a ten year period.

But despite the cost, the proposed changes are necessary and based on feedback from residents, their families and other stakeholders, the government says.

“Proposed amendments are responsive to recommendations from a range of stakeholders including the voices of residents and families, as well as the perspectives of professional and sector associations and long-term care licensees, among others,” the government says on its website.

A summary of the proposed changes can be viewed here and will be online for public consultation for the next 30 days.

With files from Cristina Tenaglia and the Canadian Press.