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Nursing home residents and their families are eagerly looking forward to a return to “normal visiting in those nursing homes where most people have vaccine protection” from July, 19 Sage Advocacy has said.

Latest HSE guidance on visiting nursing homes and other residential care facilities will come into effect from July 19 with the aim to “restore normal visiting rights as quickly and as completely as is practical” for residents. (See here for further details: Normalising visiting in nursing homes and residential care facilities.pdf (hpsc.ie) )

The HSE guidance highlights that from July 19th residents can “mostly have as many visits” as they want but with just 2 people at any one time.

However, the HSE has also warned that there is a “continuing level of risk and uncertainty” because of the high level of spread of COVID-19 in some parts of the country and that nursing home providers may have to “adapt their visiting policy” to changing circumstances and public health guidance.

Sage Advocacy has urged nursing home providers to implement and adhere to the latest HSE guidelines as soon as possible.

But the national organisation, which supports and advocates for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, said it is already aware that some nursing home providers have already advised families and residents in advance that there may not be much change on the ground initially.

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said this is completely unacceptable and is ignoring the fundamental rights of residents.

“We have consistently advocated for nursing home residents to exercise their right to see their families and for their choice and control over contact with their families to be respected.

“We are extremely concerned that already our Nursing Home Residents – Family Forum is dealing with reports from family members and residents that some nursing home providers do not intend to immediately adhere to the new HSE guidelines.

“The Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, very clearly stated on July 9 that she “expects that all nursing home providers will facilitate visiting, to the greatest extent possible, in line with the new guidance” – the message is very clear, nursing home providers have had time to prepare for the latest guidance and there can be no reason, why in line with public health advice, they cannot from July 19 get back to normal visiting arrangements in nursing homes where most people have vaccine protection”.

Ms Lennon said family members had contacted Sage Advocacy to tell the organisation that their loved ones’ nursing home provider had already communicated that they would not increase the visits to more than four per week or be flexible on when people can visit their loved ones.

Ms Lennon added: “We’ve also heard from family members who have told us that the nursing home emailed them to say “in many ways the guidelines are unchanged” – this is not correct, the guidelines have very clearly changed.

“We are also aware of a nursing home provider who has informed family members that they are not encouraging babies to be brought to visit residents because of potential issues in relation to social distancing. 

“One of the fundamental changes to this latest HSE guidance is that children of all ages can visit, and we know from our advocacy work that some nursing home residents have family members that they have never met so this change will be hugely important to them.”

“From July 19 nursing home providers now have a responsibility, under the latest HSE guidance, to restore normal visiting rights to nursing home residents as quickly and as completely, as is practical in line with public health guidance.”

Sage Advocacy has said it will be closely monitoring the roll out of the new HSE guidance and wants to hear from nursing home residents and their families if they experience any issues in relation to the latest guidance.

Ms Lennon said: “Our Nursing Home Residents – Family Forum and our team of advocates across the country can provide tailored advice and support to anyone who faces difficulties.”

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