Initial feedback from Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents - Family Forum shows families and relatives are frustrated that the Government has not drawn up a national protocol regarding visits to long term care facilities, including nursing homes.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said that while guidelines are in place for nursing home visits these are open to interpretation by nursing home operators and as a result different restrictions are in place from nursing home to nursing home and from county to county.
‘‘The over-riding priority must be to safeguard the health and well being of both residents and the staff who care for them and to prevent any possible future outbreak of Covid-19 in any long term care setting.
‘‘Stringent adherence to strict infection prevention and control measures is vital to minimise the Covid-19 risk and we fully respect and support that, as do families, but this should not necessarily result in a closed door policy when it comes to visits to nursing homes. Simply locking nursing home residents away from their families and loved ones is not an option.
‘‘Currently nursing home owners and operators can implement visiting restrictions when and however they choose. Although some nursing homes are using innovative measures to faciliate visits, in other instances families and relatives have also been told that while Government guidelines are in place they are simply guidelines and do not have to be followed.’’
Ms Lennon said it would provide clarity and reassurance to relatives and families with loved ones living in long term care facilties if new visiting protocols were drawn up by Government, the HSE and HIQA which nursing home owners and operators had to comply with.
‘‘HIQA has recently published 36 inspection reports on nursing homes, out of these inspectors found evidence of non-compliance in 20 centres. One of these was Kilbrew Recuperation and Nursing Care, a facility where Sage Advocacy has repeatedly highlighted a number of fundamental issues of concern.’’
Sage Advocacy has been working with the family of two former residents of Kilbrew Nursing Home, Ultan Meehan and his step son Adrian Bartley - who died within ten weeks of each other – to secure an independent investigation into the care that Mr Meehan received while he was a resident of Kilbrew.
Ms Lennon added: “Ultan’s wife, Mary Bartley Meehan has repeatedly spoken of her concerns that arose when she visited her husband in Kilbrew – but if she had not been able to visit and see her husband she might never have become aware of his condition.
“In its latest inspection (June 2020) HIQA found that Kilbrew Nursing Home was non-compliant in relation to: Governance and Management, Complaints Procedure, Written Policies and Procedure, Risk Management, Individual Assessment and Care Plan and Health Care regulations.
“But regardless of this HIQA went ahead and re-registered Kilbrew Nursing Home in August for a further three years until 2023 before the publication of its inspection report.
“We know there are many excellent long term care facilities that provide a high level of care in a supportive environment for nursing home residents. But the latest HIQA report highlights that not every nursing home owner or operator complies with national standards and regulations at all times.
“This is why enabling relatives and families to continue visiting nursing homes is also critically important, they can immediately see and judge for themselves the care their loved one is receiving in a nursing home.”