Confusion shuts down essential visits at Mount St. Mary Hospital

Confusion shuts down essential visits at Mount St. Mary Hospital
WatchOn Vancouver Island, there hasn't been a single case of COVID-19 in more than a month. But visits to family living in those facilities is still on hold. Mary Griffin reports.

Every day, Marcia Wood stands outside to see her mother inside Victoria’s Mount St. Mary Hospital. They are separated by three storeys.

“For thirteen weeks now. We Skype, which sometimes works, sometimes not so good,” Wood said.

They haven’t met face to face since March since the start of the pandemic. Wood thought she was finally going to get to see her mother this week. But that’s not going to happen as family visits are no longer going ahead.

“I got a letter yesterday that it was rescinded, that they had misunderstood what the essential visits were,” Wood said.

The confusion over visits began with a letter the hospital posted on its website last week appearing to open the door to expanded visits by family members.

But on Tuesday, the hospital closed off that possibility. Hospital administration now says it’s waiting for the Ministry of Health to update criteria for essential visits, with the possibility of easing visitor restrictions within long-term care facilities.

The executive director of Primary Care & Seniors Health at Island Health, Mark Blanford, said the policy now in place is in line with the provincial direction. It allows essential visitors to all its facilities, on a set of criteria.  But that policy is under review.

“I know that the policies are under review at the ministry, and the minister and the provincial health officer are looking at it. And so we expect some change at some point, but at this point in time it’s essential visits only,” Blanford said.

The problem, according to senior advocates, is there are facilities that are prepared to welcome visitors, and others are not.

“It’s actually exposing kind of weaknesses in the system that have been there for a long time. That some facilities have kind of staffing numbers that can make make the kind of thing that family members want to have happen happen, and others don’t,” Kim Slater, the chair of the Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils, said.

For now, Wood is happy to see her mother through a window.

“When it’s safe, I know I’ll be able to come in and see her. So instead, I’m right now I’m waving to her from the street level to the third floor,” Wood said.

RELATED STORY: Victoria’s Mount St. Mary Hospital long-term care home opens to limited visits for family

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