I am writing to provide you with an update on the PAC policy on visits to our residential care homes.
The health and welfare of our residents and staff is our highest priority and on March 29 PAC made the difficult decision to restrict all visitors to our residential care homes to end-of-life cases only, as we felt that the risk of COVID-19 entering the homes was too high.
Over the past week the rate of community transmission in Australia has slowed down and the NSW government has announced some community relaxation around visiting. This creates a situation where PAC is in a position to review visitation arrangements in our care homes.
Last week PAC conducted an extensive survey of residents and their families at our care homes to canvass their views on receiving visitors during this COVID-19 crisis. A small majority of residents – 54% – favour a cautious relaxation of visitor restrictions.
In the light of the survey results, the PAC Committee and Senior Management team have decided that limited visits by family members can take place on a case-by-case basis where there are family welfare concerns or a health or emotional need for a resident.
We note that the official Australian Department of Health advice remains that if you don’t absolutely have to visit a residential care home, please don’t, and that it is best to keep in touch via phone and video calls. We would still urge you to follow this advice where possible and utilise the technologies we have put in place.
Visits under the new policy will be prearranged to ensure there are not too many visitors at one time and meetings will take place in pre-determined areas of the care home. Each resident will be able to have up to 2 visitors.
- The visits will take place outdoors or in one area of the care home close to the front so visitors do not have to move throughout the home (if this is not possible due to the resident’s health the visit would be in their room).
- Visits will be for a short duration of 30 minutes outside and 15 minutes inside. Social distancing rules will still apply.
- All entry requirements for temperature checking and hand hygiene monitoring will remain in place. From 1 May 2020 the Australian Government has mandated that all visitors to any residential care homes must have had a flu vaccination to gain entry. The PAC service will require a copy of the vaccination record including the batch number that they will keep on file.
- These restrictions can be strengthened at any time should the care home be within a local community where COVID-19 cases are reported.
- These changes will apply from Thursday 30 April.
We realise that it is impossible to make everyone happy where views on visitation are concerned. We believe the new policy of a cautious relaxation of visitor restrictions in compelling cases strikes the correct balance. In order to apply for visits under the new visiting rules announced today please contact your local service.
PAC will continue to review the visitor policy every 2 weeks to ensure PAC visitation rules are in tune with current COVID-19 developments in Australia and rates of community transmission, locally or at a state or national level and make changes accordingly.
We have been truly impressed with the way our residents have come together to face the COVID-19 crisis and embraced social distancing and other new health measures we have put in place. Our staff are also doing their very best to keep our residents’ spirits up during these difficult times by increasing recreational activities in our homes.
Thank you all for your ongoing cooperation and as always if you have any questions please contact your local service manager.