That some normality back for LTC homes is applauded in Cornwall area

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The province’s announcement in an updated directive that long-term care facilities can now safely resume activities such as communal dining and indoor events and gatherings is being applauded locally.

Gizanne Lafrance-Allaire, the St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre executive director, said on Wednesday the new directive brings hope to many that some normality is close at hand.

“Anytime we lift restrictions in LTC homes in a safe and co-ordinated manner, it brings hope to our residents and family members,” Lafrance-Allaire said. “Having experienced months of isolation, our residents did what they were asked to do and they consented to be vaccinated – they now deserve relief.

“Our staff also appreciates these gentle movements towards increasing social activities and events, which goes a long way in lifting the spirits of both residents and our staff members.”

The province said it was responding to high vaccination rates in many LTC homes, and that modifying restrictions will help improve residents’ quality of life while keeping homes safe. It said that based on advice from public health experts and in direct response to residents and their families, the updated directive from the chief medical officer of health was released, along with a guidance document for LTC homes.

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Locally, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit beat the provincial mid-February deadline to provide the first COVID-19 vaccine dose to all long-term care residents by about a week, and later provided all those residents who wanted them second doses too. Some staff members and essential visitors may not yet have received their second doses, or any at all if they declined.

The update sets out that LTC homes can now safely resume activities such as communal dining and indoor events and gatherings, with precautions, and, additionally, residents and their caregivers who are fully immunized may choose to have close physical contact beyond what is required for care and supervision, such as hugging.

Once the current provincewide stay-at-home order is lifted, further direction allowing social and temporary outings for fully immunized residents will be issued. Under the updated directive, all residents, regardless of their immunization status, can leave their homes on an essential absence, which includes outdoor exercise, buying groceries, or visiting the pharmacy, while the stay-at-home order is in place.

Essential absences are not permitted when a resident is symptomatic, has been identified as a COVID-19 case or a contact, or as directed by local public health.

Amy Porteous, the Maxville Manor CEO, said she’s pleased the guidance document includes new elements regarding how homes can safely resume certain activities and loosen some restrictions – including allowing residents who are fully immunized and their caregivers who are fully immunized being able to have close physical contact again.

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“This is all positive news and will enhance the quality of life of our residents,” Porteous said.

All residents of LTC facilities in Ontario continue to be able to leave their long-term care homes for medical absences or compassionate absences at all times. Homes must provide residents with a medical mask for outings and remind them to maintain appropriate physical distancing and hand hygiene while away from the home.

The province said it continues to actively monitor COVID-19 activity, particularly in this vulnerable sector, and ensure the health and safety of residents and staff members in this sector remains a top priority. The new guidance document bases precautions on long-term care homes’ immunization coverage rates in both residents and staff.

The document identifies extra precautions that should be taken to support activities in homes that do not meet a threshold of 85 per cent of residents and 70 per cent of staff fully immunized.

It said that as of Tuesday, across Ontario, 95 per cent of LTC residents are fully immunized and more than 85 per cent of staff have received at least a first dose.

thambleton@postmedia.com

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