Long-term care homes in the Eastern Health jurisdiction are allowing for people to visit their relatives through the window again, just in time for Mother’s Day.
Visits were cancelled for about a week after some concerns about whether vulnerable residents might be put at risk.
But there are now rules and best practices in place, says Judy O’Keefe, Eastern Health’s vice-president of clinical services Judy O’Keefe.
She said it is OK to visit again, but still only from the outside.
“Mother’s Day is a heavy visitation time, and for lots of great reasons. So, we don’t have any concerns about facilitating the visits as long a family member can call one of our sites and make arrangements,” O’Keefe told CBC Radio’s St. John’s Morning Show.
“We really want to make sure that a resident is there when you’re arranging to be there.”
Eastern Health is responsible for about 15 long-terms care sites in its jurisdiction. The authority has also worked with 41 personal care homes to craft recommendations for guidelines for those facilities to follow.
O’Keefe said the majority have been following Eastern Health’s lead during the ongoing pandemic.
No open windows allowed
Eastern Heath was concerned about window visits during the COVID-19 pandemic because windows might have been opened to allow for easier conversation.
Officials were also concerned that people were separated by less than two metres.
Under the guidelines, windows must remain closed during visits, to ensure the virus that causes COVID-19 does not get inside the building.
“We really couldn’t support physical distancing [otherwise]. That’s one of the reasons now that we leave the window closed, and that enables us not to ensure people are safe,” said O’Keefe.
“I think that really speaks to people’s desperation to see their loved ones, and to make sure they’re OK, and it says a lot about how difficult this have been for families and for residents,” she said.
That is not to say, however, that residents on upper levels of the homes can’t have visitors. O’Keefe said facility staff will help family members connect from the ground level outside to their family members on the second floor.
“You absolutely can stand in the parking lot and wave from below, and we would make sure that that person was at the window.”
On Wednesday Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said during the province’s daily COVID-19 briefing that long-term care homes and some personal-care homes are allowing for gifts to be dropped off for family members for Mother’s Day.
O’Keefe said gifts can be arranged to be dropped off at front entrances of the facilities, and staff will bring them inside to be delivered.
For those who can’t make the visit, Eastern Health said it has implemented virtual visits using iPads for long-term care residents to connect with their families.