Care home administrator questions decision to ease visitor restrictions in N.S.

·3 min read

An administrator at a long-term care home in Dartmouth, N.S., says he's concerned and confused about Nova Scotia's decision to ease visitor restrictions just before Christmas.

"I think it's a high-risk strategy and it's going to be logistically challenging for us to implement in the run up to the holidays," said Anthony Taylor, the administrator at Oakwood Terrace Nursing Home.

"COVID is still active ... you're increasing the amount of people coming through the nursing home, which increases the chances of transmission."

Last month, as COVID cases began to rise, the province implemented restrictions closing all long-term care facilities across the province to visitors, except for volunteers and designated caregivers.

At the time, Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the restrictions were meant to protect "those who are most vulnerable among us."

On Wednesday, Premier Stephen McNeil announced those restrictions will be loosened so that people can start visiting their family and friends living in care homes beginning Monday, four days before Christmas. Residents may also designate a second caregiver.

"Our loved ones in long-term care will finally get to see their families," McNeil said in a news briefing.

Residents will not be allowed home visits outside their facilities over the holiday season.

Strang said in the press briefing that it would be up to each facility to schedule appointments and determine how many people will be allowed to visit.

Communications Nova Scotia
Communications Nova Scotia

Strang said care homes may open to visitors because there are layers of protection that are already required.

"Every visitor that goes in has to go through our COVID screening. They have to wear masks. They have to do hand washing," Strang said.

"There's a number of protocols in place in the facilities around where people can and cannot travel that provide multiple layers of protection already around COVID."

Lisa Smith, the CEO of Glen Haven Manor in New Glasgow, said the announcement is exciting for residents of her nursing home.

Smith said she believes her facility can accommodate more visits, but spots for Christmas Day visits were booked back in October before restrictions came into effect.

"We're hoping to be able to do several a day — our original number was 12," she said.

"[We] might be able to ... move those up to 13 or 14 because we certainly want to make sure every resident has the ability to have a visit with their family between now and the holidays, or at least between now and throughout the holidays."

At Oakwood Terrace, Taylor said the facility will start offering limited visitations on Dec. 21, but it will be difficult to implement them this close to Christmas.

"They're not going to be on all the holidays. We're scrambling to see how we can staff and how we can make it work," he said.

"We've already got calls from families who want to visit. And I do appreciate the difficult time for them and we want them to visit — it's just the risk. We just want to keep COVID-19 out of Oakwood Terrace."

Taylor said he's confused as to why visitor restrictions at long-term care homes were lifted, while other restrictions remain in place in the Halifax region.

"I find it very confusing. I can't go to a restaurant. My kids can practise hockey, but they can't play a game. But it's safe to visit within a nursing home," he said.

"It's just seems to be all over the place to me. I think a lot of people will be confused."