Although in recent weeks family presence in Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) long-term care homes has been expanded, the public should know that restrictions will be re-assessed in situations where the health and safety of residents is at risk. The decision to further restrict family presence is not taken lightly as there are substantial risks and negative impacts experienced by those in our care and their families when they are not permitted to be together.
“We would temporarily further restrict family presence if we see increasing COVID-19 activity in the community,” said Dr. David Torr, a medical health officer for the SHA. “If we were to have a case(s) in a facility, we would limit family presence to compassionate care reasons only or potentially only end of life care considering other precautions that may need to be in place,” he said.
“We look at the dynamics of what’s happening and the potential risk,” said Dr. Torr. “There are multiple factors to consider in making these determinations.”
Restrictions are determined by the local medical health officer in consultation with epidemiologists and other team members.
Depending on the situation, family presence could be limited indoors to compassionate care or even further restricted to end-of-life care only, while outdoor visits may continue to be allowed.
“These measures are necessary to prevent spread of infection, especially to our vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Torr. “It’s also why we cohort staff - i.e. keep them working at one site only - so they’re not crossing between acute and long-term care.”
When family presence restrictions are in place, the SHA provides virtual visitation options, such as using electronic devices.
Restrictions can last anywhere from 14 to 28 days from the identification of the last case of COVID-19, depending on how well the virus is contained.
“It’s by activity and the nature of the activity. If someone with COVID-19 goes to any public places such as grocery stores, restaurants, et cetera, the potential for spread is much greater.”
Restrictions are lifted once the risks of contracting the virus subsides.
“To ensure family presence continues uninterrupted in our facilities, each of us has a role to play. Don't visit if you have symptoms, get tested if you do or suspect a possible exposure. Otherwise, continue practicing frequent hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing, mask whenever possible especially when physical distancing of six feet is not possible, and be very meticulous with these especially when in public places,” said Dr. Torr.
“COVID-19 is here and will be here for a while. We need to act together as a community to minimize the spread. We are all vulnerable, and how we behave contributes to the determination of spread of the virus.”