Nursing home residents expected to be allowed one visit a week

Fresh guidelines for sector hit hard by Covid-19 outbreaks due for Christmas period

Restrictions on nursing homes are expected to be eased to allow residents have one scheduled visit a week in the run-up to Christmas, under new guidelines due to be published in the coming days. File image: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

Restrictions on nursing homes are expected to be eased to allow residents have one scheduled visit a week in the run-up to Christmas, under new guidelines due to be published in the coming days. File image: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

Restrictions on nursing homes are expected to be eased to allow residents have one scheduled visit a week in the run-up to Christmas, under new guidelines due to be published in the coming days.

Public health officials are in the process of finalising updated Covid-19 guidelines for visits to the homes following calls for residents to be permitted visits during the Christmas period.

Under the Government’s current five-phase Living with Covid-19 plan, routine visits to nursing homes would remain suspended if the country moved to a modified version of Level 3 restrictions as expected next week.

There are currently exceptions to the visiting restrictions for critical and compassionate circumstances.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has been working on new guidelines, which sources expect will permit nursing home residents one scheduled visit a week. The new guidance is expected to be circulated to nursing homes and other long term residential care centres in the coming days.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, which represent private and voluntary providers, said the group had been engaging with the HPSC to draw up “practicable and implementable guidelines for visits”.

Managed safely

He said the guidance would “ensure visits are managed safely in the context of Christmas being an important time for families”.

Providers were conscious of the need to balance “the threat of Covid with the safety of residents, and that is something nursing homes have been doing since day one,” he said.

Following a ban on visits during the first national lockdown, nursing homes were permitted to allow residents to see family and friends in person again from mid-June, with protective measures in place.

Since late August public health officials have steadily increased limits on nursing home visitors, as the number of Covid-19 cases increased.

The sector was devastated during the first wave of the coronavirus, with residents accounting for around half of the State’s total deaths from the virus to date. There are currently 105 outbreaks in residential care facilities, and 51 in nursing homes,, with health officials confident the majority are currently being kept under control.