Thursday, 29 April 2021
Department of Health
117. To ask the Minister for Health his views on easing visiting restrictions in hospitals for patients with dementia; if the guidance will be reviewed to allow at least one family member to visit those patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22389/21]
118. To ask the Minister for Health if a primary carer or family member will be allowed in hospitals to take care of persons with dementia in addition to nurses and hospital carers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22390/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 118 together.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has published new visiting guidance on 23rd April, which comes into effect on 4th May, and will provide additional opportunities to visit residents in long-term residential care facilities. Residents may now be facilitated to receive four routine visits per week. This will be possible following two weeks after the full vaccination of approximately 8 out of 10 of all residents in the nursing home. Otherwise, two visits per week should be facilitated. The duration of visits should be appropriate to the needs of the resident and should not be less than one hour. Where there is high vaccine coverage, 2 people may visit at a time but there is no requirement to limit the number of nominated visitors.
If a visitor is fully vaccinated and is visiting in a room with a resident who is fully vaccinated with no other person present, they do not need to wear masks or avoid physical contact.
A copy of the latest guidance can be accessed at www.hpsc.ie.
Although the situation in nursing homes has greatly improved, the risk associated with COVID-19 remains very real. There is still a risk of introduction of infection, including the possibility of a new variant of COVID-19, against which the vaccine may be less effective. Therefore, caution remains appropriate. At all times vigilance on the general infection prevention and control measures must be maintained and public health advice must continue to be followed, including when visiting, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect those living in our communities.
I have written to HIQA and all nursing home providers to emphasise the need to ensure visits take place to the greatest extent possible in line with the new guidance. I have also encouraged providers to communicate frequently and clearly with residents and families on the matter of visiting.
The guidance will be kept under continuing review as new evidence and data emerges. I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy on this matter.