We welcome the publication of the updated COVID-19 ‘Normalizing Visiting In Long Term Residential Care Facilities’ released on January 10th 2022.
It is positive that HSE is monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and providing guidance within the residential care setting. IHF has always advocated strongly for and reiterates the importance of visiting for the health and social well-being of residents. Each resident has the right to family connection and to maintain meaningful relationships with those important to them. It is essential for both the physical and mental happiness of the residents.
Sharon Foley, CEO of Irish Hospice Foundation said:
“It is most distressing to read the reports of older people in nursing homes being denied family visits because of COVID-19, staff shortages or of nursing homes applying arbitrary rules towards visiting when clear guidance is available. As an inclusive society, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the rights of our older people are protected. We are calling on all nursing homes to see visiting as an essential right of the resident and to facilitate it as much as possible, particularly for those nearing end of life.”
The revised HSE guidelines include a requirement for visitors to antigen test prior to visiting their relative or loved one. Whilst the need to curtail the spread of COVID-19 is understandable, IHF holds a concern that antigen testing may prevent members of the public visiting their relatives in nursing homes.
We welcome HSE’s assertion that Service providers are responsible for ensuring residents’ right to meaningful contact is respected in line with regulatory obligations. Restrictions on visiting should be the minimum necessary to manage the level of risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19 at the time. It is critically important that residential care facilities do all they can within their power to facilitate residents’ rights to visitors. The guidance states that there is no requirement to limit the total number of different people who can visit a resident although there is a limit (full details available from the link below) to the number of people who can visit at one time.
We thank all nursing home staff who do so much to offer care and comfort to their residents, we understand the unprecedented situations that nursing home staff have faced since March 2020 and recognise their supreme efforts in meeting those extremely difficult COVID-19 challenges.
We remain open to exploring any innovative and creative ideas that could provide some solutions to such separation at this time.