Downtown long-term care facility finally gets air conditioning

As the heat wave continues to scorch Quebec, patients of a long-term care facility in downtown Montreal are still without the air conditioning they paid for.

Advocacy group calls on Quebec to install air conditioning in long-term care facilities across the province

Crews are at the Paul-Émile-Léger facility today installing portable air conditioning units in windows, more than a month later than planned. (CBC)

As the heat wave continues to scorch Quebec, patients of a long-term care facility in downtown Montreal are still without the air conditioning they paid for.

Sylvain Bellemare has been living at the Paul-Émile-Léger Facility for more than 20 years. He says he's never had to wait until the first week of July to get an air conditioner. 

"It's hell. The sun comes in early and it's really, really hot," he said.

Crews where at the facility today installing portable air conditioning units in windows, more than a month later than planned.

Gérard Seguin has a quadriplegic family member in the Paul-Émile-Léger facility on René-Lévesque Boulevard East  and he said the room reached 32 C on Sunday.

"I really don't understand why the air conditioning was not installed before," he said. "Are we waiting for a catastrophe or what?"

Justin Meloche, a CIUSSS South-Central Montreal spokesperson, said portable air conditioners are being installed today in the rooms of patients who paid extra for the service.

Common rooms, he said, already had air conditioning. Paul-Émile-Léger was the last of the 17 accommodation centres of CIUSSS to receive its air conditioners.

When asked this morning why there was a delay, he said he does not have that information yet.

For his part, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette told Radio-Canada the delay was related to issues with the contractor hired to install the air conditioners.

The CIUSSS said it expected all the air conditioners to be installed by the end of the day Tuesday.

Demand for air conditioning at no extra cost to patients

Now, a patients' advocacy group has renewed demands for air conditioning in long-term care facilities (CHSLDs) across the province, but not at an extra cost to the patients.

"We are going to lose people in long-term facilities," said Paul Brunet, head of the Conseil pour la protection des malades.

A plan was established by provincial health authorities in 2003, offering guidelines on how to mitigate health risks during heat waves, but "nothing was done," said Brunet.

Patient advocate Paul Brunet says Quebec's long-term care facilities need air conditioning and it should not be at an extra cost to the patients. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

Brunet called it "shameful" that administrative offices of long-term care facilities have had air conditioning for decades but, what's worse, is patients are forced to pay for portable air conditioners to be installed.

"A lot of people do not have the means to pay," he said. "We are talking about $250 a month."

Air conditioning should be included in the fee that residents are CHSLDs are paying, Brunet argued, because it "is as important in the summer as heating is in the winter."

Acknowledging that heat wave's impact seniors, Barrette said all residents of CHSLDs "have the right to have air conditioning in their rooms without cost."

However, when asked to clarify the minister's comments, his spokesperson, Catherine Audet, told CBC News that means "all residents who wish can bring a small air conditioner, fan or dehumidifier" into their rooms.

With files from Radio-Canada, Lauren McCallum and Antoni Nerestant


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