Sam Boal/

Officials looking at 'creative' ways they could allow nursing home visits again

Dr Holohan said health officials are ‘very sensitive’ to the issue and aware of the impact on the mental health of residents.

HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE looking at ways they could safely allow nursing home residents and their families to reunite in the coming weeks, the Chief Medical Officer has said.

Representatives from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) today told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 that the majority of concerns raised with the authority by nursing home residents over the last two months were about their feelings of isolation and loneliness since the blanket ban on visitors to these care facilities.

Hiqa wrote to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) two weeks ago seeking public health guidance on how to reopen nursing homes to visitors in a safe manner.

This evening CMO Dr Tony Holohan said officials are “very sensitive to the issue”.

“It’s one of the reasons why, if I go back to the beginning, we were reluctant to see a blanket restriction on visiting into facilities, particularly nursing home facilities, which is essentially cutting people off from their loved ones who live in these facilities,” he said. 

Holohan said officials are trying to be “creative” about how visiting in some form may be able to begin again as we move through the phases of easing restrictions.

He said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is looking at the issue on an ongoing basis to see whether this could be eased during Phase 3, from the end of June.

“We need to look at it not just on its own, or in isolation. We also have recommendations in place around visitation, not to people who are living in nursing homes, but to people who are cocooned at home and who are in the same vulnerable groups being visited by members of their own family,” he said. 

Holohan said they are aware of the “significant mental health and frailty challenges” associated with an extended period of isolation and being cut off from loved ones.

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