Visits at Lambton’s long term care homes begin today

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Father’s in Lambton County’s nursing homes may be getting visitors on their special day.
Jane Joris, the head of long term care for Lambton, says the three county homes are working hard to make sure families have a chance to visit seniors in homes under the Ford government’s new guidelines. Visits started today.
Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday family and friends will be allowed to visit people living in long term care one at a time, a minimum of once a week and only outdoors. The visitor will have to have a COVID-19 test to prove they are negative, wear a mask and keep two meters from the family member.
The guidelines say the visits may be a minimum of 30 minutes.
Families will have to sign up for the visiting times and a staff member will have to bring the resident outdoors.
That, says Joris, will make things tricky.
“You just have do the math to understand that at a home the size of Lambton Meadowview (in Petrolia), for instance, that would be 18 or so visit a day, half an hour long with cleaning in between,” she says.
“So, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. But we’re working on it. We have a team of representatives from each home working on the plan.
“And we don’t have any plans to discontinue the virtual or window visits.”
Joris says in Lambton, they’ve set up areas for families where rainy weather will not stop a visit.
While in Lambton, staff members are working hard at the county homes to prepare for the visits, Joris acknowledges it is going to take more staff to make sure families get their time together.
Joris says when the pandemic hit, the hours of the home’s activation staff ramped up to meet the demand of helping residents visit virtually with families.
Lambton County staff members who were laid off in places like libraries also went to work in the nursing homes to help with family virtual visits and disinfecting the home.
Joris suspects having staff members bringing 18 people to visits outdoors every day will require even more staff.
She’s hopeful the cost of that care will be covered by the province’s COVID-19 funding.
There has been criticism of the new guidelines. Long term care advocate, Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos, Associate Teaching Professor, Ontario Tech University, calls the new plan an insult.
“The announcement from the Ford Government amounted to a publicity stunt disguised as a gift to quell the mounting public outcry against a cruel and unlawful visitation ban,” she says in a column published after the guidelines were released.
Stamatopoulos adds the outdoor visits, six feet from loved ones, “will do nothing to combat the deadly risks of isolation among residents.”
And she says, in homes where there are issues with patient care, families still won’t be allowed access into the home for months yet, leaving them wondering about their senior’s safety.
The protocols say families will not be able to come into long term care buildings until one week after the province lifts the Emergency Act Measures.
Right now, they are extended to the end of June.
Then, one essential caregiver will be allowed inside and up to two people will be allowed scheduled outside visits. All visits will be scheduled and homes have to provide a minimum of one visit per week.
While Joris and many others in long-term care recognize the need for families to be reunited, opening up the homes again is worrisome.
“I can say it does cause me a bit of anxiety because, so far, we’ve been able to keep the virus pretty much out of our homes,” she says.
“But I think we now know the infection control practices that we need in place and so we should be able to manage this once we get the outdoor visit processes in place.
“We need to plan for indoor visits as well. So we’re working on that too. And I think the infection control practices for that will be more of a consideration.”
Joris expects the first visits to begin Thursday.