Right in the centre - Personal care home visitation follows strict rules


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Personal care home visits by spouses, friends and loved ones have come under strict guidelines since the arrival of COVID-19. Formerly, visitors could come and go to Manitoba’s care homes. In western Manitoba, at least, visits were both casual and welcomed by residents and staff. After the first few days of C-19, the visitation rules changed dramatically, to a point where visitation was almost eliminated.

Now, after many weeks of lockdown, the policy has softened somewhat.

Prairie Mountain Regional Health Authority answered our submitted questions as follows.

“Visits at a PCH are still by appointment only. Each personal care home in the region has defined the number of visitors they can accommodate per day, based on size of facility and space available for indoor and outdoor visiting.  Frequency may vary from once a week to once every two weeks.”

We asked who sets the visitation policy and were told, “The provincial Incident Command table, which includes representatives from Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living (MHSAL) and Shared Health, developed the PCH Resident Visitation Principles. Each region based their visitation plans on these guidelines.”

We also asked if the policy would be evolving and were told, “These guidelines will probably continue to evolve as we see changes in COVID-19 activity in the province.”

According to Manitoba stats, the province has done very well in the C-19 battle. As of July 13, there were only two active cases, no new cases for 13 days and the death count has held at seven for many weeks now. In a column published in last week’s paper, I suggested that the rules should lighten up so that at least spouses or close friends could visit more regularly.

Since the start of C-19, there has only been one care home related death, which likely speaks volumes to the diligence of the health care staff.

The point made in the column was that if care workers can come and go in and out of the care homes, then a limited number of family or friends, especially from a local area where the cases have been low or nil, should be able to resume visits. That view was backed up by a number of responses received from family members. I was asked how I know that more people have died from the effects of the no-visitor policy than from C-19. That’s pretty easy to answer, as there has only been one care home COVID-19 death and I have been told numerous stories locally about care home residents who just gave up in despair when the visits stopped.

We had one more question and that was, are we really going to go ahead with the “visiting shelters”?  The answer came back, “The Manitoba government is working to develop outdoor, all-season shelters that will be located near personal care homes and be suitable for residents to safely visit with loved ones.  The intent is that these shelters will provide residents and their visitors with protection from the elements, will be accessible, can be easily cleaned and will provide a space that encourages quality connections. The goal is to have these structures in place by the fall to ensure people can see each other in a way that is safe for residents without putting others at risk of influenza or COVID-19 throughout the year.  Once the guidelines for these structures are provided, a provincial plan will be developed around where they will be located.  If a shelter is not able to be built at a site, PCHs will look for an alternative space indoors.”

I have conveyed my thoughts, and other people’s thoughts on this shelter idea that I have gathered, to Premier Pallister, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen, Health Minister Cameron Friesen, Agassiz MLA and Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Eileen Clarke and Riding Mountain MLA Greg Nesbitt.

The shelters are just about the dumbest idea ever. Will they have a washroom? Will residents have to be bundled up in nasty weather to get to them? Will they be supervised visits, requiring extra staff costs? What is the cost?

The PCHs should just skip to the latter part of their answer that says, “PCHs will look for an alternative space indoors.” It would make more sense.

I would caution the government. The C-19 pandemic has had very good management up until now. Let’s not screw it up with an over-extended visitation clampdown and millions of dollars in wasted money.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.