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'Huge step in the right direction': Nursing home residents allowed two visits per week from today

New guidance on nursing home visits has taken effect.

Image: Shutterstock/Alonafoto

PEOPLE IN NURSING homes can have two visits per week from today if 80% of staff and residents are vaccinated against Covid-19. 

The new guidance took effect today after it was approved by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) earlier this month. 

Speaking to The Journal, the CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly said this is a “joyous” day for residents and their loved ones, but that the sector needs to remain “hugely vigilant”. 

“It’s a very important day for all of us in the sector now and it’s a very positive development,” he said. 

“That being said, there is an element of concern there as well because of the relatively high number of case in the community.

“It’s a huge step in the right direction, but we need to be hugely vigilant and can’t drop our guard.” 

The Department of Health said earlier this month that the “advanced stage of the vaccination rollout in nursing homes” has allowed for these “cautious” changes around visitations.

Before today, residents were allowed one visit every two weeks.

HSE guidance around visits said that “meaningful contact with family and friends is important at all times therefore there is a requirement for visiting on compassionate grounds in the absence of any specific circumstances”.

The increased visits are possible two weeks after full vaccination of around 80% of residents and healthcare workers in a nursing home.

There is no requirement to limit these visits to under an hour. 

Daly said: “What we need to do now is to continue with very strong infection control measures and wear surgical masks.”

He added that there is “definitely a risk” that a rise in case numbers would “impact on the easing of visitor restrictions”. 

“There is a risk there, and that’s why there is a responsibility on all of society now to keep transmission as low as possible.”

Daly said it’s important to ensure public health measures are still being adhered to during the visits and that there isn’t “large numbers of footfall through any individual nursing home at any one time”. 

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‘Very difficult year’ 

Speaking to RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, a woman whose 94-year-old mother is in a nursing home in Kildare said she is “absolutely looking forward” to visiting her later this week. 

Mairead Blackall said: “It’s been a very, very difficult year. Mum got Covid, survived it and is in a wonderful nursing home. It’s just been a very, very difficult year. Window visits at that age are incredibly difficult.”

Gordon Glynn, the manager of Kiltormer Nursing Home in Galway, said his staff and residents are “so excited at the moment that the visiting is returning”. 

“We’ve gone through probably the toughest year that anybody has ever imagined at the moment. We’re happy to see some light at the end of the tunnel and anything that will lift the residents’ spirits, we’ll be happy to go ahead with it,” he said on Morning Ireland. 

He said the first “heartwarming” visit taking place today is a couple who have been married for around 50 years. 

“We’ve had to be [the residents'] visits for the past year when their family couldn’t come in… we’ll be emotional as well as everybody else.”

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