New guidance on visitations to long-term residential care facilities
Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler has welcomed the approval by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) of new Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) Covid-19 guidance on visitations to long-term residential care facilities.
Welcoming the new guidance, Minister Butler said: “The ongoing reduction in Covid-19 cases across the community and the significant progress made in vaccinating the majority of nursing home staff and residents will now result in a loosening of current visiting restrictions. Moving forward, under Levels 3, 4 and 5, residents will be able to receive two visits every week under compassionate grounds where there is high vaccine coverage in a nursing home.
"These changes will come into effect from March 22. The next few days will allow time for nursing home service providers to communicate with families, book visits and prepare for additional visiting.”
Furthermore, where a nursing home does not yet have high vaccine coverage (i.e. eight out of every 10 resident and healthcare worker has been fully vaccinated) visits will still be facilitated. At level 5, one visit every two weeks and at Levels 3 and 4 one visit per week can be provided for.
While the current guidance had provided for visiting on critical and compassionate grounds, these changes will expand the scope of visiting on general compassionate grounds.
"Twelve months on from the life changing arrival of Covid-19 we have seen the huge impact this virus has had on society, especially for our older people. It has been an incredibly difficult time for people living in nursing homes and their families as restrictions on visiting have continued. For many there has been limited opportunity since Christmas to see their loved ones," the Waterford Minister said.
Minister Butler concluded that while the new guidance is hugely positive, the risk associated with Covid-19 remains "very real".
She added: "This is why the guidance takes a cautious approach and aligns with the principles set out in the Government’s revised Living with Covid-19 Plan. We all need to remain vigilant and continue to follow public health advice, including when visiting, to reduce the spread of Covid and protect those living in our communities.
“The new visiting guidance will, I hope, be widely welcomed, as it signifies a big step forward in providing opportunities for people living in nursing homes and their families to meet much more frequently. I expect that all nursing home providers will facilitate visiting in line with the new guidance announced.”