Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted Thursday that he has directed city staff to come up with a plan to reinstate “window visits” for people with loved ones at city-run long-term care homes — often their only means of contact as many facilities remain locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Watson said he has asked city staff to work with Ottawa Public Health to put a plan in place by May 7 that respects physical distancing rules.
Ontario premier Doug Ford also weighed in on the window visit restriction on Thursday afternoon, calling it “ridiculous.”
“I’m trying to be politically correct, but I’m usually not politically correct. That’s ridiculous … I don’t know who’s come up with this ridiculous idea but they need to rethink it,” Ford said during a news conference.
The reversal comes one day after the city’s director of long-term care told CBC there would be new limits placed on visitors at the city’s four facilities.
“This difficult decision to limit these visitors to the exterior grounds of the homes is based on prioritizing the safety and health of residents and staff,” Dean Lett said Wednesday.
2/2 I have asked that a plan be in place by May 7, that will ensure residents and visitors respect the physical distancing rules at the same time.
Lett said residents at the city’s four facilities are starting to go outside now that warmer weather has arrived.
“We have experienced a number of situations where families have visited and have not respected the requirement for physical distancing as directed through public health agencies,” he said.
Confusion over new rules
In an interview prior to the mayor’s tweet, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury acknowledged there has been some confusion over the new rules.
“I didn’t see the initial memo going out, but it should’ve been properly explained: our responsibilities, how many facilities we operate and what measures we’re putting in place,” Fleury said.
He said there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents in the four city-run long-term care facilities.
Fleury said the visit policy was meant to protect residents who may be getting fresh air and exercise outside the facility. He said the window visits meant the exterior grounds of the homes were becoming increasingly busy.
“We’re asking members of the families to call ahead and coordinate with the centres for those window visits,” Fleury said.
“It seems easy when there’s mobility for the residents, but we have a lot of residents with very limited mobility and that requires coordination with our internal team, who’s very busy at this time.”
Fleury said staff are also trying to make it easier to arrange video calls with residents.
Seven-hundred residents live in the four long-term care homes run by the city. Those homes include the Garry J. Armstrong, Peter D. Clark, Carleton Lodge and Champlain homes.