Written answers

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Thomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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505. To ask the Minister for Health if provision can be made on compassionate grounds for one visitor in full PPE to a care home under level 3 restrictions if the resident is suffering with mental health issues as a result of visiting restrictions. [30054/20]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I understand that the question raised by the Deputy concerns long term residential settings for people with a disability.

People living in long-term residential care facilities are particularly vulnerable populations in the context of Covid-19 and have been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be at a higher risk of being susceptible to infection from this disease and for subsequent adverse outcomes.

Residential settings are people’s homes as well as places where health and social care are provided. It is recognised that the impact of COVID-19 on society in general and especially those living in long-term residential settings has been considerable. During these times there has been a particular emphasis on retaining a holistic view of the well-being of residents, remaining person-centred, being cognisant of their rights as citizens, and being vigilant that in seeking to shield them from infection that these rights are not infringed upon in to an extent, or in a manner, that is disproportionate.

A key aim of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 is to provide clarity on what restrictive measures are appropriate around the country based on the pattern and progress of COVID-19 in a particular area at a particular time. In line with this Framework, new COVID-19 Guidance on Visitations to Residential Care has been developed by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) to support long-term residential care providers in the discharge of their responsibilities and to support residents to the greatest extent possible, having regard to the challenging times we are living in.The latest guidance, including information on visitations to residential care facilities is available on the HPSC’s website and the latest guidance, updated on 1st October is available here:

www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/vulnerablegroupsguidance/.

As the Deputy is aware, all counties in Ireland are currently at Level 3 on the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. Under Level 3 of the Framework, it is unfortunately the case that visits to long-term residential settings are paused. I am very much aware of how difficult the current restrictions on visiting are for residents and their families, and we very much hope that a return to less restrictive visiting can be safely facilitated soon.

It is important to emphasise that the guidance is clear that visits should be facilitated in critical and compassionate circumstances. Moreover, in the context of Framework Level 3 a more flexible interpretation of critical and compassionate circumstances is appropriate compared with Framework Level 4 and 5.Furthermore, the term ‘critical and compassionate circumstances’may include circumstances in which a resident is significantly distressed or disturbed and there is reason to believe that the visit may alleviate that distress or instances where a resident expresses a strong sense of need to see someone.

The guidance further states that virtual visiting, outdoor visiting and what is referred to as ‘window visiting’ need not be restricted at any Framework Level, if there are suitable facilities and capacity to accommodate and support the visit. These options should be facilitated by service providers to the greatest extent possible. It is also essential that all decisions regarding restricted access should be communicated clearly to each resident and to relevant others.

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