Long term care residents may now leave the building for family visits


Minister says changes coming to visitor policy next week

People living in the province’s long term care homes, who have been locked down for six months, are now able to leave the homes for short periods of time or even overnight.

March 16 the province locked down all of the province’s homes, fearing COVID-19 would spread into them. At the time there were about 200 cases across the provinces 626 long term care homes.

The toll on long-term care has been devastating with over 1,800 seniors dying of COVID-19. However in the last month, the number of cases within long term care across the province has fallen sharply. Today, there are only three active cases across the province in long-term care homes.

However the restrictions remained until July when families could visit outdoors, but were unable to touch family members. While some nursing homes followed the restrictions closely, others allowed families more access including daytrips.

Last week, the Justice Centre of Canada filed a lawsuit saying the province had not given clear directions to homes and asked a judge to order the province to do so. The centre is waiting to hear if the court will hear the lawsuit.

Today, the province announced residents can leave the homes for short stay and temporary absences. That means families can take seniors to medical appointments or for visits or even bring them home for a couple of days.

“Following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, effective immediately, residents can spend time away from their long-term care homes for day trips or overnight absences. For ‘short-stay’ absences — those that do not include an overnight stay — homes must provide residents with a medical mask to be worn at all times when outside of the home, if tolerated, and remind them of the importance of public health measures, including physical distancing. When they return, residents must be actively screened but are not required to be tested or to self-isolate,” says the government news release issued this afternoon.

Overnight or temporary absences “will be at the discretion of the home and decided on a case-by-case basis based on safety factors like the risk associated with the absence (e.g., for a family weekend vs. a large gathering) and ability of the home to help residents self-isolate upon return,” it continues. Seniors will have to be in isolation for 14 days when the come back from an overnight stay.

“If a home makes the decision to deny a temporary absence request, they must communicate their rationale in writing.”

Long term care Minister Merrille Fullerton, in the news release, adds an updated policy for visits to long term care homes will be released next week.