COVID-19 Presents Opportunity to Improve Long-Term Care Infrastructure

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a long-overdue opportunity for an assessment of the need to renovate outdated long-term care (LTC) facilities across the province, and make sure that professional tradespeople doing the work are properly trained in infection control best practices.

The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO), and a dedicated team of university students working in its research department, has been looking at the age and infrastructure standards of long-term care homes in Ontario to improve housing for residents.

Findings to date suggest that approximately 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 (usually having four beds per room and one bathroom), 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.

According to the CDCO, the renovations required to bring these homes up to the 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 “Physically reconfiguring patient rooms and addressing major structural issues, such as outdated HVAC and electrical systems, are just a few examples of what we’re seeing that needs to be done,” said Mike Yorke, President, CDCO.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.”

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.

COVID-19 and the findings of the study have made clear how buildings can make people sick and therefore just 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.

It’s expected that the need for Infection Control Risk Assessment certifications will increase as owners look at renovating their LTC properties.

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