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

Victoria's Mount St. Mary Hospital long-term care home opens to limited visits for family

At Victoria’s Mount St. Mary Hospital, for the first time in months, family members are visiting their loved ones.

On June 5, the administration posted an update outlining the criteria for the resumption of family visits. It included temperature checks, an appointment requirement, a questionnaire, a 45-minute visit limit, a one visitor limit and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.

However, on June 9, the criteria is no longer on the website. Mount St. Mary CEO Sara John Fowler posted the following update on the website. 

“Dear Family Members,

Further to my letter of June 5th we have received more information from our public health officials regarding Essential Visits in long-term care homes. As you can understand, Mount St. Mary Hospital is regularly receiving numerous guidance documents and policies from multiple sources during this time of COVID-19. As such, our policies and procedures around visiting Mount St. Mary must be amended.

We are anticipating receipt of a guidance document on defining Essential Visits, as well as a
document from our public health officials regarding the possibility of easing visitor restrictions
within long-term care.

As always, our precautionary measures are in place to protect our residents and our staff.

Our leadership team is assessing each request for a visit to ensure it meets the current
definition of an essential visit.

While we know this update will bring disappointment, we assure you that your loved one is
being well cared for during this time and we continue to address their physical and mental wellbeing. We have confidence in our Provincial Health Officer and Minister of Health and I ask for
your support in waiting for further direction from our public health officials.

We, on Vancouver Island, have collectively been exemplary in our behaviours, policies and
practices during this pandemic. For this, we [are] grateful.”

Like all long term care facilities, at the beginning of the pandemic, Mount St. Mary Hospital closed to all but essential visitors.  Then in late May, the province quietly updated its guidance on COVID-19 protocols at long-term care facilities.  B.C.’s Seniors Advocate, Isobel MacKenzie said that means family members, under strict guidelines, are now able to visit their loved ones.

“When you look at the criteria that was issued under the revised guidelines, late in May, you can see how, in some care homes, a great number of residents will meet the potentially meet the criteria for an essential visit,” MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie says the revised guidelines are recognition that COVID-19 is here for a long time, but residents in long term care need to see their families.

“I think also we have to realize that we could be in this COVID world, we could be living with this pandemic for a year or two. And so how do we balance that and Mount St. Mary’s has found their way to balance it,” MacKenzie said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said reopenings are happening on a case-by-case basis in some health regions.

“We’ve always said that there are some essential family members who need to provide care to people in long term care, and that has been decided on a local basis by the regional health authority, the M.H.O.’s [medical health officers’. We will have a provincial policy for general visiting with the appropriate caveats in place to protect the community,” Henry said.

READ MORE: 10 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., no new cases in Island Health

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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