Sage Advocacy has advised nursing home residents and their families to be well informed about the latest guidelines from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on visiting nursing homes during all levels.
At Levels 3,4 and 5 in-door visiting at nursing homes is suspended, apart from critical and compassionate circumstances.
But the HPSC guidelines state that “window visiting” - where a person stands outside and speaks to another individual at a safe distance through an open window or by telephone is safe at any framework level and during outbreaks.
The guidelines also state that “if outdoor visiting suits the visitor and the resident this is also safe at any framework level or during outbreaks provided people keep a safe distance”.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director, Sage Advocacy, said the rights of nursing home residents must be respected and upheld and any visiting policy including any restrictions should be communicated clearly by nursing home operators to each resident and their families.
Ms Lennon said: “The first priority must always be to safeguard the health and well being of both residents and the staff who care for them but we know from our work how important visits are for the health and well being of residents.
“If visiting policy changes suddenly at a nursing home this causes stress for both residents and their families and we would urge nursing home operators to clearly communicate any changes and the reason for changes to visiting policies to both residents and their loved ones as soon as possible.”
Ms Lennon said a new inspection report published by HIQA highlights why nursing home residents and their families should stay up to date with current HPSC guidelines.
The HIQA (www.hiqa.ie) inspection report on Larissa Lodge Nursing Home in Carnamuggagh, Letterkenny, Donegal (based on an unannounced inspection on 13 August 2020) showed that: “The visitor restrictions that were in place at the time of the inspection were not in line with the current guidance for the locality and infringed the rights of residents with no clear rationale for the decision to stop all visiting in the designated centre.
“Residents and their families had not been afforded the platform to communicate their views and therefore their voice was not being heard.”
The HIQA inspection report on Larissa Lodge Nursing Home in Carnamuggagh, Letterkenny, Donegal also stated:
“The provider had recently stopped visits in the centre due to the increased risk in three other counties in the country. There was no clear rationale for the complete cessation of visits in the centre and the restrictions were not in line with the public health guidance at the time.
“In addition, the changes to the visiting arrangements had not been communicated to all families and during the inspection one visitor arrived for a pre-arranged visit and was turned away by staff.”
Ms Lennon said: “We are very aware of other examples across the country where window visits have been suspended and we urge nursing home operators to respect and comply with the HPSC Covid-19 guidelines, and respect the rights of residents to choose where and when to have visitors, unless there is a clear safety rationale not to do so”.