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Coronavirus: Lethbridge long-term care facilities restrict visitation

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Some Lethbridge families are unable to visit loved ones in palliative or end-of-life care due to restrictions brought on by COVID-19 concerns. As Emily Olsen reports, one woman is concerned she may not get to say goodbye to her husband – Mar 19, 2020

Long-term and palliative care facilities in Lethbridge have closed their doors to visitors this week, as the threat of COVID-19 increases.

AHS said some exceptions to the restrictions may be made on a case-by-case basis, however, those with symptoms who may be at risk of carrying COVID-19 are not welcome to visit any long-term care facilities.

READ MORE: 119 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta; Kenney gives more details on financial aid

Those restrictions include individuals who:

  • Have an illness that can be transmitted (symptoms include, fever, cough, loose stools, rash and feeling unwell.)
  • Are immunocompromised
  • Are in self-isolation
  • Are being tested for COVID-19

Cindy Lemley, a Lethbridge resident, is one of the people affected by these new restrictions.

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Her husband is in end-of-life care for final stage heart failure and C.O.P. failure.

Lemley said she typically visits her husband at St. Michael’s Health Centre every day.

But on Wednesday evening Lemley was informed by staff that she was no longer allowed to visit.

READ MORE: Alberta orders all classes cancelled, daycares closed as COVID-19 cases rise to 56 in the province

“It was kind of devastating last night for both of us,” Lemley said.

“There’s a lot of families that can’t be with their loved ones while they’re quarantined and isolated. But when it’s end of care, it makes it hard, because my husband could die before I’m allowed to go in and see him.

They said when it gets to the final stage, that’s when they’ll call me and I can come.”

Lemley said she had to make funeral arrangements without her partner on Thursday. She added that following AHS guidelines, the two are still able to keep in touch.

“We do video chat, so there’s that,” Lemley said.

With their 26th anniversary coming up on April 1, the closest she can get to her husband — is through a pane of glass.

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“I can sneak around to his window and wave at him, but I can’t give him a hug,” Lemley said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Using Alberta’s online self-assessment tool

She said she understands why regulation is crucial and added the staff at St. Michael’s have been very supportive of her family.

“You’ve got to be appreciative of these nurses,” Lemley said.

“I mean they’re going through so much right now and they’re risking their health for other people.”

She added that it doesn’t make the separation any easier.

“I’m thinking of all the families whose loved ones are ill or in final care, and you can’t see them until the end,” she said.

READ MORE: Ban non-essential visits to long-term care homes during coronavirus pandemic: Ontario chief medical officer

A spokesperson from Alberta Health Services clarified the restrictions in a statement to Global News on Thursday.

The restrictions are as follows:

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“Effective March 18, visitors to long-term care or continuing care facilities are restricted to essential visitors only. Essential visitors are defined as those providing care necessary for the well-being of the resident, and those attending to a resident who is dying.

Essential visitors are restricted to one individual at a time and those visitors must be immediate family or a designated person. The restrictions apply to all long-term and supporting sites owned and operated by AHS.

Additionally, no children will be allowed to visit. This restriction is in place as we know that children do not necessarily show symptoms of COVID-19, and could therefore pose an unknown risk to the health of patients and staff.”

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