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HEALTH MINISTER SAYS NURSING HOMES SHOULD HAVE PLANS IN PLACE FOR "INNOVATIVE, SAFE ALTERNATIVE VISTING ARRANGEMENTS" November 5, 2020

Sage Advocacy has welcomed confirmation from the Minister for Health that he has urged nursing homes to “have plans in place for innovative safe alternative visiting and communication arrangements for residents and their families and friends, during periods of enhanced protective measures.”

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, had outlined his position in written responses to parliamentary questions tabled by Róisín Shortall T.D. and Catherine Connolly T.D.

In his written responses the Minister for Health said: As I have previously publicly stated, I encourage all nursing homes to remain familiar with the latest public health advice and support, and to make every effort to continue to facilitate visitors in line with public health advice.

“While many nursing homes have shown great, innovative practice throughout the pandemic, I continue to urge all nursing homes to have plans in place for innovative, safe alternative visiting and communication arrangements for residents and their families and friends, during periods of enhanced protective measures.

“The importance of continued social interaction of residents and their families cannot be understated and every effort should be made, in line with public health advice, to ensure that these interactions continue, including through window visits”.

However Ms Lennon said feedback from Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents - Family Forum suggests that some nursing homes have removed the option of outdoor or window visits because of the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

Ms Lennon said that latest advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC Publication Date: 02 November 2020) outlines that window visiting - where a person stands outside and speaks to a person at a safe distance through an open window or by telephone is safe at any Framework Level and during outbreaks.

The HPSC also states 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.

Separately Sage Advocacy had sought clarification about the 5km travel restriction in Level 5.

In a written response to Fergus O'Dowd T.D. the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly stated: “While people are asked to stay at home and exercise within 5km of home at Level 5, exemptions are permitted in a number of situations including for vital family reasons. This is provided for under Regulation 5 (2) (j) of SI 413 of 2020. This can include nursing home visits (including for window visits).”

Ms Lennon believes this guidance will help to reassure families who need to travel further than 5 km from their own homes to visit loved ones in nursing homes.

“Sage Advocacy has also compiled a short infographic on visiting nursing homes during Covid-19 which we hope will help families and nursing home residents at this time easily understand the current position regarding visiting.”

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