Visiting rules for P.E.I. long-term care homes to change, again

·3 min read

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office is once again changing rules for visitors to the Island's long-term care homes to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The changes are scheduled to come into effect early next week, according to a document on the changes provided to CBC News by the CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes, Jason Lee.

"Given what's going on across the country, and now it looks like even in Atlantic Canada, the numbers are on the rise, I think it's a good idea, and I think our residents and their families, by and large, are also going to see this as a correct move for now," Lee said.

"Obviously, nobody's going to want to see this be in effect for any longer than it needs to be. But right now, I think this is a needed move."

The province plans to continue to allow those in public and private long-term and community care to keep three partners in care who assist with things like mobility and feeding. Those people will be allowed to continue to visit with residents in their rooms as long as they wear masks, the document says.

Partners in care will also be allowed to continue to take residents out for drives, and residents can continue to visit and stay overnight at the homes of partners in care, but now only with partners in care — no other family or friends can be present. Previously, residents had to simply "limit exposure to others."

However, visitors who for the last several weeks have been allowed unlimited unscheduled visits in their rooms must now choose a list of six visitors only, and only two may visit at a time. Those visits will once again have to be held in a designated area and may have to once again be scheduled. Physical distancing between the resident and visitor must be maintained. The length of the visit will be at the home's discretion, the guidelines say.

And there's a big change for staff — they may no longer apply to work-isolate if their work site is a long-term care or community care facility. Work isolation is for those who travel outside the Atlantic bubble — after they receive a negative test, they may go only to work. The rest of the time, they are to self-isolate.

'A very tough decision'

Residents at the end of their lives had been permitted unlimited visitors at their bedside, but now only three will be permitted at a time at the bedside, including a partner in care.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

Lee said he was briefed on the draft rules on Thursday, and was told there could still be a few tweaks.

"The staff, the residents, the families, they've all really been enjoying the extra openness that we've had over the last couple of months, it's been good for everybody," Lee said.

"It's a very tough decision. I wouldn't want to be making this decision, but Heather Morrison and her team are doing a great job and we're happy to follow their lead."

He said even though the new rules will come into effect Monday, he expects it will likely take a few days to get everything set up at his three P.E.I. facilities: Whisperwood Villa, Garden Home and Lady Slipper Villa.

He noted these are minimum rules and individual homes can put stricter ones in place if they wish.

More from CBC P.E.I.