SAULT STE. MARIE — Like many other Ontario jurisdictions, last week the North Shore Health Network announced that as of Wednesday it had re-started visiting at its long-term care facilities.
For a woman whose father resides in a long-term care facility in Sault Ste. Marie, the announcement did not jive with her understanding of new adjusted visitor regulations in the COVID-19 pandemic period.
Becky Campbell, whose father resides at Extendicare Maple View in the Soo, told ElliotLakeToday that in her experience the story that came from the policy announcement in the adjoining jurisdiction was "misleading."
According to its news release, the NSHN is now allowing more visitors and adding indoor visitation to the policy. It said that's in line with the Ministry of Long Term Care providing further guidelines for visits to long-term care homes for both indoor and outdoor visits.
The release continued stating that for outdoor visits, two visitors are allowed at a time and they need to bring their own face covering. Tests for COVID-19 are not needed, but all visits are by appointment only.
Meanwhile, indoor visitors are welcome as of last Wednesday, but must wear masks at all times.
Visits of up to two people are allowed between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. The new NSHN policy affects the network facilities from Blind River west to Thessalon.
Campbell, who lives in Saskatchewan, told ElliotLakeToday she was not impressed with the way Extendicare rolled out the visitor policy at their Sault Ste. Marie facility where her father lives. In light of that, she called the NSHN announcement "misleading."
"Outside visits are still just one visit a week, but you can have two family members,” Campbell said. “Inside visits are once a week but you can have one family member.
"This is not specific to Extendicare,” Campbell added. “We contacted the Davey Home in Sault Ste. Marie and they have the same rules. They said it was at the direction of the Ministry of Health that visits are not allowed in rooms."
"The big inside visits announcement did not result in any improvement for the residents. Except if you decide the once-a-week visit will be inside, then the resident will not be allowed any fresh air for the week. The residents except for this once a week half-hour visit will have no contact with anyone outside the home. They will not even be allowed virtual visits via FaceTime.
"A half-hour amounts to 0.3 per cent of their week. Our father pays almost $3,000 a month to be isolated. Prisoners get to exercise in the yard every day. Even with a visit, we are not allowed to walk with them, play cards with them or even provide their leg therapy we have been denied being able to perform since the onset of the pandemic.
"While we certainly agree that the pandemic is a special situation and that protecting residents is of utmost importance, we also recognize the detrimental effects of isolation on residents. Human contact and physical contact (holding hands, patting a back) are powerful and important for all humans, especially the elderly. We are not allowed to even touch our father when we have an outdoor visit. Even essential caregivers are denied entry.
Campbell went on to say she wondered if visitors were being kept out of rooms for reasons other than the health and safety of residents and staff.
Efforts to contact Extendicare Maple View failed to elicit any response from facility officials as of the time of publication.