An advocate of the elderly in Cork has welcomed the decision to allow residents of long-term residential care facilities, including nursing homes, to receive two visits per week on compassionate grounds.
From March 22, two visits per week will be allowed where a facility has a high level of vaccinations.
The new visitation rule is an increase from the current one visit per resident every two weeks on compassionate grounds and will be allowed under Levels 3, 4 and 5 of restrictions, according to new guidelines announced by the Department of Health.
Paddy O’Brien said that the news will come as “a great relief” to residents and their families after what has been “exceptionally rough and sad times over the last 12 months”.
“For residents to be sitting in their rooms looking out a window is a desperate experience and I hope as many people as possible can benefit from the new visitation regulations,” he said.
Mr O’Brien, however, raised concerns about some elderly people who may still be denied a visit.
“I hope the visits are not confined to family members only because there are residents in nursing homes who do not have a family.
“I suggest that elderly residents without families should be able to allow a friend who has been fully vaccinated to visit them in the home and this would be much appreciated by those residents,” he said.
Dr John Sheehan of Blackpool Bridge Surgery said that allowing nursing home residents to have more visits opens up the idea of a vaccine bonus whereby those who have been fully vaccinated could face less stringent restrictions.
“So as more and more people are being vaccinated that certainly becomes an option.
“We’re beginning to see it now with the nursing homes. Because they’ve been vaccinated they’re cautiously able to allow more contact and hopefully that will open up more and there is some feeling that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.