Family members will soon be able to visit loved ones in long-term care facilities around Langley, after a provincial government announcement Tuesday afternoon.
The proclamation has senior staff at local facilities frantically reviewing the announcement and getting plans in place to meet provincial requirements. That included Tanya Snow, director of Bria Communities – the parent company of Langley’s Magnolia and Sunridge Gardens – who is anxious to facilitate the reunions as soon as possible.
In the meantime, however, Snow is pleading for a little more patience from families and residents alike.
”We look forward to familes and residents reuniting in a meaningful way, very soon. But, we have to do it safely and with caution to ensure we remain COVID free,” said Snow, who promises to try to keep all parties informed of the progress.
The province imposed a lockdown of all long-term care facilities in March, after COVID-19 started spreading in B.C. care homes and killing some of their residents. Langley Lodge, for example, lost 24 people due to the coronavirus.
Now, in accordance with the new provincial guidelines announced Tuesday, residents will be able to have a single, designated visitor in a specific visiting area. But the details of what this will look like are still unclear, Snow emphasized, having been assured more details are forthcoming in the next few days.
“It is important that the public be aware that long-term care and senior living operators were not provided [ahead of time] with any of the information presented [Tuesday]… We heard about it the same time as the general public did, and it has raised many questions amongst the operators that we will need to get answered,” she said, listing staffing, equipment, and PPE requirements among the unknowns.
Reviewing the 36-page updated documents from the Ministry of Health and developing new processes and health and safety plans will take time, Snow added, anxious to collaborate with families and residents on how best to implement the next steps at the two local care facilities.
“We look forward to getting as much clarity as possible, as we look to find a healthy balance between safety and quality of life,” Snow said, fearing an onslaught of people will want to start seeing their aged loved ones immediately.
“We ask that families please not rush over to the LTC and Senior Living communities expecting to be let in,” Snow said.
She can say for sure already that there will be set visitation appointments; visits will be scheduled in advance and within a set time period; visitors will be expected to comply with prescreening and PPE requirements; a defined visitation area will need to be clearly established; and there will be close monitoring and cleaning that will be required before, during, and after every visit.
Meanwhile, across town at Langley Lodge, safety plans are also in the works to facilitate reunions.
Anticipating that the outbreak status in the Langley City facility will end Friday, next week will be spent developing a required plans for approval by the medical health officer, said the Lodge’s chief executive officer, Debra Hauptman.
It will define the infection prevention and control protocols for family, resident, and staff safety, she explained.
“This is a welcomed announcement for our residents, families and care providers,” Hauptman added. “We look forward to having families reconnect with their loved ones and look forward to this positive step moving forward during this pandemic.”
The new approach for long-term care visits will be monitors through July, and if it allows visits while keeping the spread of COVID-19 in check, it could be expanded in August, according to provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix.
“We know how important it is for our family members in long-term care to receive visits from family, friends, and supporters. We also know that’s a risk when we have COVID-19 in the community,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer.
“Once long-term care homes have plans in place, and they’re taking the extra precautions needed, I’m so happy to say that we can safely move towards allowing visitors again.”
Updated provincial requirements will ease the current visitor restrictions for long-term care homes and seniors’ assisted-living residences with clear guidance on required precautions. And, before any visitors can set foot in buildings, sites must have visitation plans approved by the provincial government, emphasized Henry.
Essential visitor restrictions remain in place for other healthcare settings, the top doctor said. And the provincial government is providing funding to hire extra staff at B.C.’s 680 long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities to help with infection prevention and control measures.
Snow did hear Tuesday’s announcement allude to additional funding being available to help with the transition.
But, she’s unclear who gets the money or how it will be distributed.
“As you may know, as private operators, our frontline/essential services care and hospitality staff were left out of the federal pandemic pay – or hero pay – despite doing the exact same work, and only choosing a private employer versus a publicly funded employer. Will we be excluded again?” Snow wondered.
For now, she reiterated her plea for understanding.
“We ask residents and families for their patience and support as we start to ‘open our doors’ a little more,” Snow concluded. “We will notifiy residents and families as soon as we are ready to start safe visiting in the very near future.”