Long-term care facilities need to be overhauled, says carpenters’ council

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The COVID-19 pandemic provides has presented a long-overdue opportunity to assess and renovate outdated long-term care (LTC) facilities across Ontario, says the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO).

In a recent news release, the CDCO said now is the time to look at opportunities to overhaul care facilities through renovations and updates to building infrastructure designed to improve care and upgrade housing for residents.

The CDCO has put in place a dedicated team of university students working in its research department to look at the age and infrastructure standards of long-term care homes in Ontario. The goal is to look at opportunities to overhaul these care facilities through renovations and updates to building infrastructure – improving care and housing for all residents.

Findings to date suggest that about one third of LTC beds in Ontario are in facilities built to standards which are almost 50 years old, and that the highest COVID-19 infection rates have occurred in such long-term care facilities defined as D- and C-level facilities that usually have four beds per room and one bathroom. These homes are built to standards established in 1972.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the need to renovate these facilities. In so doing, we all need to reassess what the future of long-term care could look like, and this is a real opportunity to make all Ontario’s LTC facilities safer and much healthier for current and future residents,” said Mark Lewis, General Counsel, CDCO.

The renovations required to bring homes up to newer Ontario standards span a range of activities.

“Physically reconfiguring patient rooms and addressing major structural issues, such as outdated HVAC and electrical systems, are just a few examples of what we’re seeing that needs to be done,” said Mike Yorke, President, CDCO. “Now’s the time to bring Ontario’s long-term care homes and hospitals into the 21st century.”

COVID-19 and the findings of the CDCO study have highlighted how buildings can make people sick and how important it is to follow rigorous Infection Control Risk Assessment practices in health care construction – especially when it comes to renovating hospitals and long-term care facilities.

To meet the growing need for infection control training, the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades offers a 24-hour Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) training course, including 16 hours of in-class theory and eight hours of hands-on training. Proper ICRA training ensures that tradespeople are well-versed and up to date on infection and control risks. Before this course was established, there were no infection control training programs available for construction professionals working at established hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“This ICRA training course was thoughtfully developed to ensure tradespeople are able to identify any potential risks and carry out their work in the safest way possible,” said Cristina Selva, Executive Director, College of Carpenters and Allied Trades (CCAT).

“With new infection control measures being implemented by businesses across the province as a result of COVID-19, construction industry professionals can expand their skillset so they can be prepared with the knowledge of how to best execute these crucial renovations.”

The CCAT’s curriculum was developed by construction-related infection control experts and is updated periodically to remain relevant and consistent with evolving industry standards. The course also covers how to identify and minimize risks; ICRA protocols; proper use of HEPA equipment; bio-hazard PPE; and enclosures and containment barriers.

The construction industry has a duty to ensure the future of long-term care is a positive one, the carpenters’ press release concluded.

“These certified industry best practices provide a safeguard to ensure renovations on long-term care homes mitigate the risk of exposure to possible airborne contaminants from materials like ceilings, tiles, and flooring. Continually striving to keep homes and hospitals updated through renovations will improve the living standards and well-being of all patients and residents.”

In total, the CDCO represents over 30,000 women and men working in a wide range of skilled trades, including carpentry, drywall, resilient flooring, concrete formwork, underwater construction, welding, scaffolding, and a long list of other construction-related work.

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