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REVISED HSE GUIDANCE ISSUED ON VISITS TO LONG TERM RESIDENTIAL CARE FACILITIES January 11, 2021

The HSE has outlined that because “of the current climate it may not be possible to support visiting in some long term residential care facilities” in its latest guidance published today (11/01/2021) (See here).

In the updated guidance the HSE states that visiting may not be facilitated in some nursing homes and other long term residential care facilities “because of constraints on staffing and outbreaks”.

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said while she appreciates that the latest guidance from the HSE will be difficult for both nursing home residents and their families to bear at this time, everyone is very aware of the record number of Covid-19 cases that have been detected across the country.

Ms Lennon said: “We know that community transmission rates are very high and that everyone must make a concerted effort to help reduce those rates. We have always said that the first priority must be to protect the health and safety of residents and the staff who care for them and this is vital at this time of elevated risk to everyone.

“We also know from our work that meaningful visits are of the utmost importance to nursing home residents and their families and that it is vital to maintain the bond between loved ones. We must always respect the right of nursing home residents to see their families and to have choice and control over their contact with their families”.

Ms Lennon said nursing home residents and their families had hoped that the roll out of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to nursing homes across Ireland represented a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

“Although the accelerated vaccine rollout is very welcome, we know it is taking place against the backdrop of a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and an increase in the number of staff who are unavailable because of Covid-19 related issues.

“The latest HSE guidance warns that nursing home operators will need to “limit critical and compassionate visiting to times when visiting can be effectively supported by available staff’’.

“Families and nursing home residents will want to know the duration of these visitor limitations and if, following the second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, will these be relaxed.

“Although these revised guidelines state that “it may not be possible to support visiting in some LTRCFs because of constraints on staffing and outbreaks”, this does not amount to a blanket ban and we would urge nursing home providers to ensure good communication with residents and their families as to the arrangements in their facility,” Ms Lennon added.

Sage Advocacy said it is important to remember that the latest HSE guidelines also highlight that outdoor and 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.

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