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Nursing home visits to increase to four per week from 4 May

This applies to all long-term residential care facilities.

Image: Shutterstock/Rido

NURSING HOME VISITS are to increase from two per week to four per week where 80% of residents are fully vaccinated, after updated advice from NPHET and the HPSC.

Two people will be allowed at each visit, where as currently only one person is permitted.

The change will come into force on 4 May, when the Irish Government is due to announce the possible easing of other restrictions.

In homes where the majority of residents are fully vaccinated, people can expect to have four visits a week with two people at each visit.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that serial testing of staff in nursing homes is down at 0.11% – the lowest ever since commencing last summer.

Nursing home staff and residents were among the first group to be vaccinated against Covid-19, as part of the 105,000 people in the long-term residential care facilities group.

Prof Martin Cormican, Professor of Bacteriology at NUI Galway, said at tonight’s NPHET briefing that there are no time limits on these visits, but that they should be for at least an hour – and the guidance on this is for practical reasons to do with nursing.

He said that in cases where it is necessary to limit a visit to an hour, that time should begin from the time that the visitor and the resident are together.

“It shouldn’t count as the time that it took you to check in and do all the bits and pieces on the way in,” he said.

So the limit, if there is one, is one that’s there for practical reasons not infection related control reasons, and it should not be less than an hour.

If 80% of residents are not vaccinated, two visits per week should continue.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly welcomed the news: “Meaningful contact with family and friends, which is so important to our wellbeing, is something that we have striven to provide as safely as possible.

“With high levels of vaccination having now been achieved in many nursing homes, it is really encouraging news that this also brings the chance for nursing home residents to have more opportunities for that meaningful contact.”

Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said: “I understand that, for some, there may be apprehension about an increase in visiting, given the considerable challenges posed since the arrival of the pandemic.

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“However, a balance must be struck between protecting residents and staff from the risk of Covid-19, and individual’s rights to visits from family and friends. Visiting, social connections and meaningful contacts are an inherent part of the wellbeing of residents and of the quality of care provided.

“With the benefit of the vaccine, regular visiting is now moving away from general and compassionate circumstances only, towards a more normalised situation,” she said.

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