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MINISTER OF STATE ENCOURAGES NURSING HOMES TO "MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO CONTINUE TO FACILITATE VISITORS IN LINE WITH PUBLIC HEALTH ADVICE" October 22, 2020

The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Mary Butler TD has contacted Sage Advocacy to outline that she has encouraged 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”.

Mrs Butler said that Ireland is now seeing a growing number of clusters in nursing homes and recent data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre reinforces the need to ensure that specific public health measures for nursing homes continue to be maintained.

Mrs Butler stated: “This guidance aligns with the 5 level framework of restrictive measures as outlined in the Government’s Living with COVID-19 Plan, to support long-term residential care providers in the discharge of their responsibilities and to support in the safe visiting, to the greatest extent possible, having regard for the challenging times in which we are living.​”

Sarah Lennon, Sage Advocacy’s Executive Director, has welcomed confirmation from Mrs Butler that she has encouraged all nursing homes to facilitate visitors.

Ms Lennon said: “We fully agree that the first priority must be to prevent and minimise the risk of infections in nursing homes in order to safeguard residents and the staff who care for them.

“We are acutely aware of the risk Covid-19 poses and we all want to avoid a repeat of previous tragedies.

“But we must balance the risks with the needs of residents and their right to see their loved ones in a safe environment with stringent infection control measures in place. We know from our work regular visits by family friends is immeasurably important to people’s mental health and wellbeing and can make all the difference to their quality of life”.

Ms Lennon said Sage Advocacy is currently seeking further clarification about the 5km travel restriction in Level 5 in relation to families who need to travel further than 5km from their own homes to visit loved ones in nursing homes.

Sage Advocacy said it is important that families are also aware of the latest guidelines set out by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre in relation to nursing home visits.

These state that at levels 3,4 and 5, visiting is suspended aside from critical and compassionate circumstances for in-door visiting.

The Covid-19 guidance also states:

-  Critical and compassionate circumstances are difficult to define and of necessity require judgement, however, the term should not be interpreted as limited to circumstances when the death of a resident is imminent.

-  Critical and compassionate should be assessed on an individual basis, but include:

- Circumstances in which a resident is significantly distressed or disturbed and although unable to express the desire for a visit there is reason to believe that a visit from a significant person may relieve distress.

- When there is an exceptionally important life event for the resident (for example death of a spouse or birthday).

- When the visitor may not have another opportunity to visit for many months or years or never (for example because they are leaving the country or are themselves approaching end of life). HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

- Increased visiting is recommended by their doctor as a non-pharmacological therapeutic alternative to an increased dose of an existing agent or introduction of a new anxiolytic or sedative agent.

- A resident expresses a strong sense of need to see someone whether for personal reasons, to make financial or other arrangements or to advocate on their behalf.

- A person nominated by the resident expresses concern that a prolonged absence is causing upset or harm to a resident.

- Other circumstances in which the judgement of the medical or nursing staff or social care worker caring for the resident is that a visit is important for the persons health or sense of well being

“Window visiting” where a person stands outside and speaks to a person at safe distance through an open window or by telephone is acceptable at any Framework Level and during Outbreaks.

Outdoor visiting where safe distance can be maintained at all times need not be restricted at any Framework Level or during Outbreaks where there are suitable facilities and capacity to accommodate and support the visit.

If suspension of “window visiting” and outdoor visiting are considered then this should be in the context of a documented risk assessment.

- Circumstances in which a resident is significantly distressed or disturbed and although unable to express the desire for a visit there is reason to believe that a visit from a significant person may relieve distress.

- When there is an exceptionally important life event for the resident (for example death of a spouse or birthday).

- When the visitor may not have another opportunity to visit for many months or years or never (for example because they are leaving the country or are themselves approaching end of life). HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

- Increased visiting is recommended by their doctor as a non-pharmacological therapeutic alternative to an increased dose of an existing agent or introduction of a new anxiolytic or sedative agent.

- A resident expresses a strong sense of need to see someone whether for personal reasons, to make financial or other arrangements or to advocate on their behalf.

- A person nominated by the resident expresses concern that a prolonged absence is causing upset or harm to a resident.

- Other circumstances in which the judgement of the medical or nursing staff or social care worker caring for the resident is that a visit is important for the persons health or sense of wellbeing.

 

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