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People in nursing homes can have one visitor a week from 7 December

As part of new guidelines, visitors will be allowed at Levels 3 to 5 under compassionate grounds.

Image: Shutterstock/Lighthunter

NEW GUIDANCE ON visits to nursing homes has been issued by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC).

The guidance outlines that at Levels 3 and 4, nursing homes residents are allowed up to one visit per week. At Level 5, up to one visit every two weeks is permitted.

These visits are allowed on compassionate grounds, a term which has been expanded under the new advice. 

Before now, only window visits were allowed in Levels 3 to 5. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said “it’s been a difficult year for nursing home residents”. 

“The wellbeing and safety of those living and working in nursing homes will be the priority,” Donnelly said. 

The Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, said social interaction and meeting family and friends “is important to the health and wellbeing of residents”. 

“While unfortunately the risk posed by Covid-19 means that we will all have to celebrate Christmas in a different way this year, the new visiting guidance identifies further opportunity for managed social interaction and residents receiving visits from family,” Butler said in a statement.  

The new guidance said the testing of prospective visitors before they arrive is not required at any level. 

Visits by children are permitted if accompanied by an adult who will take responsibility for ensuring proper conduct and the child is able to abide by the visiting requirements.

Visitors will be provided with personal protective equipment if required. 

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Critical and compassionate circumstances in which visits may be permitted are not just in times where the death of a resident is imminent.

Other compassionate grounds include when a resident is distressed or disturbed and a visit from a specific person could relieve distress, during an important life event for a person in the nursing home such as a birthday or when a visitor may not have another chance to visit for a long period of time. 

The HSE said earlier this month that it was meeting with stakeholders to discuss visits to nursing homes during the Christmas period. 

Chief Operations Officer Dr Colm Henry said on 19 November: “It’s clear now the impact this is having on a particularly vulnerable population, for whom visits from loved ones and family members, that’s the most important part of their lives.”

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