COVID-19: Visitor restrictions at long-term care facilities now the wrong policy, says UBC expert

Comment made as Ontario bans care-facility residents from leaving for social reasons or having general visits

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B.C. shouldn’t go back to restricting visitation to long-term care facilities after the Omicron COVID-19 variant, and instead ramp-up rapid testing and maintain the one-site work rule, according to a University of B.C. expert.

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“We need to prioritize keeping visitors going into long-term care homes because we know how important that is for residents. People suffered greatly from loneliness and social isolation early in the pandemic,” said Dr. Jennifer Baumbusch, associate professor at the UBC School of Nursing.

Baumbusch said the health-care system now had the tools to keep residents safe, while allowing for social visits. This includes rapid testing, vaccines and better personal protective equipment.

“We need to see an acceleration of the protective layers,” she said. “Really upping rapid testing for staff and visitors in long-term care, prioritizing booster shots for staff and for those with essential- and designated-visitor status.”

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There was one COVID outbreak in a B.C. long-term care facility as of Dec. 24, the last time that information was available.

Baumbusch’s comments came as Ontario long-term care homes were set to ban general visitors or allow residents to leave for social reasons. There are 41 long-term-care homes currently experiencing a COVID outbreak in that province.

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