Seniors in care to be allowed family visits after 100 days of lockup

Victoria – BC is to spend $160 million to enable safe family visits to seniors in long term care and assisted living.

Only one designated family member will be allowed to visit under stringent conditions necessitated by the vulnerability of seniors to severe outcomes from Covid-19 infections.

This will be the first time seniors in care will have visits from loved ones since a lockup began about a 100 days ago.

The new initiative was announced by Health Minister Adrian Dix and BC PHO Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“British Columbians flattened the curve through individual actions and a commitment to look out for each other – our families, friends and neighbours,” said Dix.

“That commitment has come with many sacrifices, especially from our seniors and elders who have been separated from their loved ones. That’s why throughout this pandemic, we are have sought to continually improve our long-term care and seniors’ assisted living operations, to make them safer for residents and those who care for them.

“Each of us must continue to be completely committed to combatting this virus for these historic investments to be effective.”

Residents will begin to be able to have a single designated visitor in a specific visiting area. This approach will be monitored through July, with an aim to expand it in August.

Care facilities where there are outbreaks will not allow visits.

Dr. Bonnie Henry moving cautiously forward.

“We know how important it is for our family members in long-term care to receive visits from family, friends and supporters,” said Henry.

But the health officer did say she’s anxious about potential risks. However she believes the stringent measures will keep seniors safe.

“We also know that’s a risk when we have COVID-19 in the community,” she added.

Each facility must develop written plans outlining how they will meet the requirements.

• Visitation in individual facilities can resume once they have their required written safety plan in place.

• Once in place, residents will be able to have one designated visitor in appropriate designated spaces.

• Designated spaces will include outdoor or indoor locations; and

• all visitors must bring and appropriately wear masks.

Essential visitor restrictions remain in place for other health-care settings.

In addition, personal service providers, including hairdressers, will be able to come into long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities if they have completed a WorkSafeBC safety plan.

“The Province is providing more than $160 million for facilities to hire up to three full-time equivalent staff in each of B.C.’s 680 long-term care homes and seniors’ assisted living residences, including both public and private facilities.”

This could total as many as 2,040 additional staff dedicated to ensuring infection prevention and control measures for COVID-19 are followed to support safe visitation. 

The additional staff will also work to schedule visits and make sure visitors do not enter the facility if they are sick, wash their hands frequently, practise respiratory (cough) etiquette and maintain a safe physical distance of at least two metres from patients and staff wherever possible.