A Cork nursing home proprietor has broadly welcomed the new guidance on visiting residential care facilities and said he believed that the changes could become the new norm for visiting nursing homes even beyond Covid-19.
Yesterday evening, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre published new guidance on visitations, which is due to come into effect on June 15.
Under the guidance, family members and friends will be able to visit their loved ones in residential facilities from later this month; however, a number of criteria have to be met.
In facilities where there is no ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, visits will have to be scheduled and each resident will only have a maximum of two named visitors.
Only one of those visitors can be present at any one time.
Visitors will also have to undergo a temperature check before entering the facility and should be asked if they have had Covid-19 or had close contact with a person with Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 symptoms, says the guidance.
Among the other measures outlined are that visitors are required to wear a surgical mask if they are not able to maintain social distancing during the visit and that visits are limited to less than 30 minutes.
Diarmuid Ó Dálaigh, proprietor of Oaklodge Nursing Home in Cloyne, said that the guidelines seemed “sensible” and that while he had not initially expected that visitors would be allowed to visit so soon, they were already putting in place measures to prepare a safe room to facilitate this.
“We very much welcome the opening up of the facilities on a limited basis to visitors in a safe way,” he said.
The guidance also states that children under the age of 16 are not permitted to visit, a measure which Mr Ó Dálaigh said he questioned, adding that many residents in care facilities may not have been able to see their grandchildren in a long time.
While the new guidance means that visiting will be very different from what it was previously for many residential care facilities, Mr Ó Dálaigh said that he believed that the future of visiting in nursing homes might just look like what is recommended in the guidance.
“Safely structured visiting could very much become the new norm,” he said.
However, Mr Ó Dálaigh said he did not know how this would be balanced with transparency, adding that structured visiting could seem like someone has something to hide.
Among the considerations to address this issue, said Mr Ó Dálaigh, could be the installation of CCTV, as is done in other settings, so that families could observe their loved ones.
Meanwhile, under the guidance, visiting will not be permitted in facilities where there is an ongoing outbreak of Covid-19, except in “essential” cases such as at end of life.
In such cases, visitors will be required to wear PPE, says the guidance.