Northern Health moves to restrict visitors amidst COVID-19 crisis

The COVD-19 virus has hit communities hard. Northern Health is taking added precautions to protect those who are most vulnerable—people with compromised immune systems and the elderly. The local hospitals and care facilities now have restrictions to help aid this battle.

Northern Health released a bulletin March 18, after the province declared a public health emergency was at hand on March 18. Northern Health has moved to limit the number of visitors entering healthcare facilities.

For now, the restrictions are as follows:

The hospital emergency departments, intensive care and critical care departments will only allow one adult caregiver/support person per patient.

The perinatal unit, inpatient pediatric and adult areas, and inpatient areas, allow only one adult caregiver/support person, while the neonatal ICU unit allows two adult caregivers or support people.

Urgent and primary care centers allow only one adult caregiver or support person, as does any outpatient clinic, and long-term care home.

For patients in palliative/end-of-life care there is some flexibility depending on the case and the patient and family’s needs, but they’ll work with infection prevention and control on this, as well.

The bulletin also notes that no visitor who is unwell or shows symptoms like a fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, or diarrhea, will be allowed in any health centre.

And they say that anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has been in contact with an infected person over the previous 14 days, cannot visit patients and residents in any Northern Health facility, including long-term care homes.

“We understand the importance of visits from family and loved ones to our patients and long-term care residents and we appreciate your support in helping to keep everyone safe,” writes Northern Health.

Ronnie Larsen, manager of Tweedsmuir House assisted living facility, has experienced multiple shifts in policy over the past few weeks, due to changing recommendations from the province, and COVID-19 developments.

“When this all came out, we had a meeting with Northern Health, just to decide how we were going to handle the situation, and it’s ever changing. Every day is a different day,” she said.

At Tweedsmuir House, there are 15 residents currently. They have their own apartments, but there are shared spaces, as well.

“We’re stopping all the visitors at the door… So, we’re screening visitors that come in. We have hand sanitizer at the door, and they’re required to use it, and then they must report to the office,” said Larsen.

The facility is not allowing any “non-essential” visitors. Family is considered essential.

And they’ve also stopped all activities for the time-being, she said—which is a disappointment to many of the residents.

While the doors are not yet completed closed to visitors, it may still happen, said Larsen.

She hopes this isn’t the case, because the isolation is already hard for the residents, though she and other staff members are spending extra time checking in on and chatting with residents, just to keep up their morale.

“I do try to visit the tenants when I can… It’s just not quite the same because we have an atmosphere here where we’ve got a lounge, where people like to come and have coffee and chit chat, but it’s just not happening as much,” she said.

Larsen also wants to ask that people be considerate when shopping for goods at local stores. She’s found that staff from the facility have recently been out of luck when trying to buy good, fresh food, like meat and produce, for residents’ meals, due to other people stockpiling these goods.

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