Wednesday, July 21, 2021

THE publication of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC)’s new Covid-19 related visiting guidance for Long Term Residential Care Facilities (LTRCFs) has been welcomed by Minister of State Mary Butler (FF). This guidance came into effect on Monday of this week, July 19.

“Nursing home staff and residents, and their friends and families have made huge sacrifices over the last 16 months,” she said.

“People living in nursing homes and other residential care facilities have a right to maintain meaningful relationships with people who are important to them. Visiting is an essential part of that right.

“I expect that all nursing home providers will facilitate visiting, to the greatest extent possible, in line with the new guidance, and communicate early with residents and families on a clear plan towards more normalised visiting.”

The new public health advice is to restore visiting to near normal levels in terms of frequency of visits “in those settings with a high level of vaccination of residents as quickly as possible”.

However, the guidance also recognises “the need to remain cautious as we continue to deal with the evolving risks associated with Covid-19. The guidance will be kept under continuing review as new evidence and data emerges”.

According to Minister Butler’s statement: “Providers should put in place the necessary measures to progress to more normalised visiting and visiting frequency as quickly as possible in line with public health guidance with no more than two visitors at any one time. Routine visiting will no longer need to be scheduled in advance. There is no requirement to have a list of nominated visitors. The duration of the visit should not be limited.

Fewer restrictions will apply to residents going on outings or visits outside of the nursing home.”

The statement added that “visiting arrangements should continue to take account of general public health advice and the necessary infection prevention and control measures, to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of Covid-19 and protect those living in our communities. This is particularly important in the context of the increasing prevalence of the more transmissible Delta variant. This new variant poses a significant risk, in particular to those who are not yet fully protected though vaccination.”

Speaking at Portlaw’s Dr Martin Day Centre for the Elderly this morning, Minister Butler said that there are currently 101 Day Centres now open across the country, “with another 55 to follow between July and August. There are others which need some more work and I’m happy to say that the budget will be provided through the HSE for that work.”

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