Dr. Henry's response to query about better visits for long-term care homes frustrates advocate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Dr. Henry's response to query about better visits for long-term care homes frustrates advocate

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November 30, 2020 - 7:00 PM

Everyone dealing with the lockdown in long-term care homes seems to agree on one thing – COVID-19 isn’t being carried in by family members who are currently allowed to visit.

But that’s not going to make it any easier to get longer or better visits by those already cleared to go inside.

During her COVID-19 news conference today, Nov. 30, provincial health minister Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked to confirm what people like B.C.'s Seniors Advocate have been saying: that there are no confirmed cases of visitors bringing in the disease.

“This is a challenging question because which came first?” Dr. Henry said. “We restricted visitors in long-term care, as you know, because of the devastation.”

"We have not had any introduction that we’re aware of,” she confirmed and added that strict protocols were implemented to make sure visitors were not likely to carry the disease into the facilities.

Family members of people in long-term care have said they just want the rules around how visits are conducted to be clarified because only 20 per cent of care homes are providing what family members consider to be adequate visits. Often, one person can only visit for half-an-hour, once a week in a common area where they have to sit six feet away, even though Dr. Henry’s guidelines don’t stipulate such measures.

“We have provided clear direction,” Dr. Henry said. “I know all the care providers are working to follow those directions.”

Brenda Brophy, a strong advocate for visitors' rights who organized a rally this fall in Victoria, was frustrated by that comment.

“Bonnie Henry thinks their directions to facilities have been clear?” Brophy said via text message. “If clear, why is it such an inconsistent mess.”

She and others have argued that the health of residents in long-term care homes is deteriorating without the help and support of family members. Some have gone so far as to say they no longer want to live under the isolation they face during the lockdown.

READ MORE: 'NO TRANSPARENCY': B.C. families denied access to long term care facilities wondering why

Brophy pulled her 100-year-old mother out of a care facility to take her into her home. While her mother is regaining some of her cognitive functions, she still is in a much weaker mental state than normally would have happened over the past few months, Brophy said.

“If she (Dr. Henry) would just come out with a very clear guideline that care homes need to implement visits,” Brophy said prior to the news briefing. “Bonnie Henry wants to keep talking about the science around the risk. Then why isn’t she and the Ministry doing something to say, here are the protocols that are required, you don’t need to do this, this and this. Come out with something that’s standard. Say, if you wear a mask, you can sit within six feet of a person as long as you have a mask on, that’s the only rule.”

There’s nothing in Dr. Henry’s orders that prevent in-room visits or that rooms have to be completely sterilized after each visit, yet most homes in B.C. are restricting visits to common areas, even though the guidelines are the same throughout the province.

B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie released a report on Nov. 3 after more than 13,000 family members responded to a survey on conditions in long-term care under COVID-19.

Her first and strongest recommendation – which she is following up by lobbying care home operators – is to allow existing visitors to stay longer and/or visit more often.

READ MORE: B.C. may have to adjust COVID-19 strategy to get more visitors into long term care homes

Dr. Henry is not budging and pointed out how deadly the disease can be if it spreads amongst long-term care residents.

She announced that 46 people died in B.C. over the weekend, with 38 being long-term care residents.

“We only have to look at what happened this weekend to know what can happen when the virus gets in,” Dr. Henry said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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