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Visitors allowed back in B.C. long-term care homes

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Jun 30, 2020 at 7:47 pm PDT

FILE PHOTO. (iStock Photo)

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The province is easing pandemic restrictions and allowing visitors in B.C. long-term care homes, but with some rules still in place.

People living in long-term care and assisted-living homes will be allowed to have one designated visitor come see them in a specified area — indoors, outdoors, and in some single rooms — the province announced Tuesday.

Visitors will need to wear masks and book appointments in advance. Facilities will need to submit plans to WorkSafeBC first and designate staff to screen everyone who enters the buildings, as well as space visits throughout each day.

Personal service providers, such as hairdressers and barbers will also be allowed to operate in care homes, but must also submit WorkSafeBC plans.

Visitors had been banned from care homes since mid-March, when the first outbreak was declared at the Lynn Valley Care Centre.

“As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has put us all to the test, and this has been particularly the case with our elders and seniors in care,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“Very early on in this pandemic, we learned that it is our seniors and elders who are most at risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. Understanding this, we had to move quickly and decisively to protect our most vulnerable citizens.”

The province restricted visitors at care homes and limited staff to working at a single site.

“Despite our efforts, families have lost mothers, fathers, and grandparents every day. This weighs heavily on us,” Henry said.

To date, 174 people in B.C. have died from COVID-19. More than half are linked to care homes, the largest source of cases in the province.

 

Currently, outbreaks remain active at four long-term care or assisted-living facilities.

Henry said visits will initially be limited to one person.

RELATED: B.C. to release plan for long-term care home visits

“We are going to start slowly,” she said. “And as we expect, things will progress We’ll expand these activities, as we have done with every other activities, and we will be monitoring this on an ongoing basis to ensure that we can expand access as soon as it’s safe to do.”

Long-term care homes with active outbreaks cannot have visitors, Henry added.

Visits at care homes can begin once safety plans are in place, while the provincial policy will be reviewed monthly.

“Of course, we’re all a little anxious because we know what we can happen if we don’t get this right,” Henry said. “And it is something that has weighed on us, and me, as well, over the last many weeks. But moving thoughtfully, with care will give us the confidence that we need to move forward.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix added the province will provide more than $160 million for long-term care and assisted-living facilities in B.C. to hire up to three full-time staff.

“This could total as many as 2,040 additional staff dedicated to ensuring infection prevention and control measures for COVID-19 are followed to support safe visitation,” he said.

The province is also providing $26.5 million for care home facilities, Dix added, to address pandemic-related costs incurred between March 31 and June 30.

The visitation policy does not apply to acute-care facilities.