New HSE guidance has introduced a requirement for visitors of nursing homes to be vaccinated as window visits may also return. People visiting loved ones will need to show a COVID-19 vaccination certificate, along with photographic identification to prove it is them. The advice, outlined in the document titled Normalising visiting in Long-Term Residential Care Facilities, will be implemented from Monday.
However, some exemptions will be permitted on compassionate grounds due to the unpredictable nature of nursing homes. The HPSC said these compassionate and critical events include the resident’s birthday, when a resident becomes particularly distressed, or when a “strong sense of need” is expressed to see someone.
Although window visits will be still permitted, advocacy group, Care Champions revealed that families have raised concerns over nursing homes ignoring updated guidance. According to the group, recent weeks have shown some homes unnecessarily banning outdoor and window visits.
“There is absolutely no justification for such draconian measures, 18 months into the pandemic,” the group said. “Residents have played their part. They have endured over a year of separation from the people they love and are among the highest vaccinated population in the State.”
Sage Advocacy have said residents should be given the choice to meet someone who is unvaccinated or not. Executive director, Sarah Lennon said, “If a resident was living in their own home, they would be able to have any visitors they wanted regardless of their vaccination status”.
To help protect the right of nursing home residents to have visitors, Ms Lennon has also called for the Government to legally back them. She feels that there should be no reason why new regulations cannot become legislation as quickly as with the case of nightclubs.
According to HPSC guidance, a fully vaccinated person – and others who developed immunity from infection – is “far less likely” to catch severe COVID-19. Although vaccinated people can still become infected, they are less likely to be the source of a breakout in a nursing home.
“It is reasonable, therefore, to expect that people who are fully vaccinated or have immunity as a result of prior infection are less likely to be the source of introduction of virus into a setting such as a [long-term residential care facility],” guidance states.
The new requirements for nursing homes follow earlier suggestions for the public to “reduce our social contacts and give the virus less opportunity to spread. Reduce the people you intend to meet this week by half. If we all do this collectively, we can suppress current levels of infection.”