Air conditioning in CHSLDs a calculated gamble: Drouin

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The “immediate health threat” from the heat is being weighed against the risk of the coronavirus spreading further, the Montreal public health director said.

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Jesse Feith • • Montreal Gazette

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May 26, 2020 • • May 26, 2020 • • Read for 3 minutes • • 8 comments Ronald Gibara peeks into the room where a medical worker takes care of his wife on Tuesday at the CHSLD Vigi Mont-Royal.  The Quebec Department of Health and Social Services has issued guidelines that give all CHSLDs the green light to use air conditioning to protect vulnerable residents from the heat. Ronald Gibara peeks into the room where a medical worker takes care of his wife on Tuesday at the CHSLD Vigi Mont-Royal. The Quebec Department of Health and Social Services has issued guidelines that give all CHSLDs the green light to use air conditioning to protect vulnerable residents from the heat. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /.Montreal Gazette

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With temperatures continuing to rise this week, the Quebec Public Health Institute cannot be sure whether the use of air conditioners and fans could further spread the novel coronavirus in places where COVID-19 patients are housed.

Despite the uncertainty, the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services issued guidelines on Tuesday giving all long-term care centers (CHSLDs) the green light to use the units to protect vulnerable residents from the heat.

In Montreal, where many centers are battling COVID-19 outbreaks, Public Health Director Mylène Drouin explained the plan as a calculated gamble – the risk of residents dying from the heat was weighed against the risk of them becoming involved Infect COVID-19.

“For us, the risk associated with the heat is an immediate health threat. If there is an extreme heat wave, the effects can be fatal, ”said Drouin at a press conference about the balancing act that the health authorities have carried out.

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“(The heat) is an immediate risk that we have identified as predominant compared to the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

As of Tuesday, 170 public retirement homes and CHSLDs in the greater Montreal area had at least one confirmed COVID-19 case.

Before this week’s heat wave, many centers had reached out to the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ) to see if it was safe to use air conditioners or fans. They weren’t sure if air circulation could spread the air any further.

The institute’s answer finally came on Monday, but didn’t provide the clarity some had been looking for: the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.

“In the absence of evidence and given the literature consulted,” the institute said in a statement published online, any center, hospital, or residential home with COVID-19 patients should assess the risks locally to determine whether “the benefits offset the disadvantages predominate “with these devices. “

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“The advantages of comfort over the safety of users and employees must be carefully analyzed,” said the institute, “and a safe and comfortable environment must be created.”

While no longer recommending whether or not the machines should be used, the INSPQ provided general guidelines for those who choose to use them.

To prevent the spread of droplets from infected residents, it has been suggested that the units be turned off when nurses or doctors are treating a patient, routinely disinfecting the units and, as much as possible, avoiding them pointing at a resident’s face.

Before the Ministry of Health policy was enacted Tuesday afternoon, there still seemed to be confusion about what to do.

The Montreal Gazette had contacted the city’s five regional health authorities to ask how they interpreted the INSPQ guidelines and whether they would use air conditioning in their networks. The answers varied from region to region.

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But the Ministry’s policy later made it clear.

“It is appropriate for Quebec’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, to put air conditioning in health care facilities also in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the notice to health officials said, the benefits of using these devices are greater than the possible inconvenience. “

Less than a third of the rooms in Quebec’s CHSLDs are air-conditioned – a situation that advocates for patient rights this week labeled “inhuman”.

During previous heat waves, centers with no air-conditioned rooms moved residents to cooler common areas to help them escape the heat. But that might not be an option this year.

At least two of Montreal’s health authorities, who collectively oversee 17 long-term care centers, confirmed Tuesday that they do not intend to use common air-conditioned areas for residents to cool off and consider it too risky.

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Instead, both have started installing air conditioning in rooms.

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  1. A commercial rooftop air conditioner.

    “It is inhuman” that so few rooms in CHSLDs are air-conditioned: patient advocate

  2. The personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces will monitor the donning of personal protective equipment by the personnel of the CHSLD Vigi Mont-Royal on May 14, 2020.

    Coronavirus live updates for May 26th

  3. Canadian Armed Forces personnel exit a senior residence in Laval after meeting the personnel on April 19, 2020.

    An investigation has been launched into the COVID-19 toll on senior residences

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