Long-term care may allow visitors in June: Henry

Restrictions on visitors to long-term care and acute-care hospitals could be eased as early as June, but logistics are still being worked out, says B.C.’s provincial health officer.

“I’m hopeful that it will be some time maybe in June,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday during her daily briefing.

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Long-term care facilities have been instructed to limit visits to essential visitors. There are exemptions for palliative and compassionate care.

Henry has said those rules could be eased to perhaps one visitor per patient or resident, but no date was given.

Opening up long-term care and assisted-living homes as well as acute-care hospitals requires continuing to control the virus in the community as well as in seniors’ homes and hospitals, Henry said.

“Everybody wants to have their one [visitor] and so we need to make it in a way that is safe for the rest of the community,” she said.

Visits could look different depending on the facility, Henry said. Some of the factors include the number of residents or patients that would be exposed in a room, the overall size of the facility and ability for physical distancing, and the ability to control the virus.

“We have to continue to be thoughtful and careful as we move through the next few weeks,” she said. “I’m very hopeful that starting later on in the summer, we should be able to make those incredibly important essential visits more available for family members and for our seniors and elders who really do so need them.”

The majority of the 146 COVID-19 deaths in B.C. have been seniors in long-term care or assisted-living facilities.

There are currently 19 active outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care and acute-care sites in B.C. There are 14 outbreaks in long-term care and five in acute care hospitals. None is on Vancouver Island.

Health officials have instituted several measures, including the ban on non-essential visitors and aggressive testing for respiratory illnesses. Recent outbreaks have been contained to one or a few people.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has said the primary goal is ensuring the safety and the health of people in long-term care while he has acknowledged the hardship the visitation restrictions have had on residents, patients and their families.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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