Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker is pleased that, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government announced the gradual resumption of visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, and other residential care settings.
Family and friends will be allowed access to these settings beginning June 18. Long-term care homes will allow outdoor visits of one person per resident each week at a minimum. Retirement homes will resume indoor and outdoor visits in designated areas or resident suites when physical distancing can be maintained. Other residential care settings will be able to allow outdoor visits of two people at time. Physical distancing will be required for all visits. This approach will ensure the health and safety of residents, staff and visitors.
“This is terrific news, we need families to be able to see their loved ones and we are taking the first steps to reunite families in the safest way possible,” said Walker. “We are moving cautiously, to balance these important visits against the need to keep residents and staff in long-term care homes safe, and ensure risks are mitigated.”
Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, and Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
"Thanks to the hard work of our frontline workers and the collective efforts of everyone in stopping the spread, we can now allow families to reunite with their loved ones safely and in person with strict public health measures to protect residents, visitors, and staff," said Premier Ford. "But I ask everyone to be cautious and act responsibly as the battle to contain COVID-19 is not over and the risk to our loved ones still remains."
Visits will resume Thursday, one week after the release of visitor guidelines. They will be subject to strict health and safety protocols, including requiring visitors to pass active screening every time they visit, confirming with staff that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous two weeks, and complying with the infection prevention and control protocols. This includes bringing and wearing a face covering during visits.
Additionally, long-term care and retirement homes, as well as other residential care settings, must meet the following conditions before they welcome visitors:
Homes must not be in outbreak;
Homes must have an established process for communicating visitor protocol and the associated safety procedures; and
Homes must maintain the highest infection prevention and control standards.
For retirement homes, visitor admissions will vary from home to home depending upon their individual circumstances.
"We know the visitor restrictions have been tough on residents, as families and loved ones play an important role in providing care and emotional support to residents. We are confident these visits can occur safely," said Minister Fullerton. "With the possible spread of COVID-19 in our long-term care homes still being a real threat, people will need to follow strict health and safety protocols in order to protect our most vulnerable."
"Seniors living in retirement homes have been doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. "Our government appreciates their cooperation and we are happy they will soon be able to enjoy visits with family and friends while continuing to stay safe."
Other residential care settings will also be allowed visitors under similar rules. These residential care settings include homes serving people with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence, and children's residential settings.
"We are all looking forward to the day when we can once again see family and friends, and spend time together," said Minister Smith. "Today is an important first step in reconnecting loved ones who have been separated all spring."
As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves in Ontario, the direction on visits at long-term care homes, retirement homes, and residential settings will continually be updated, keeping the safety and emotional well-being of residents and staff at the forefront.
Visits have been restricted since mid-March, with only essential visitors permitted to enter long-term care and retirement homes.