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Protesters say COVID-19 visitor protocol too strict at Nova Scotia long-term care homes

Click to play video: 'Families protest against continuing visitor restrictions in long-term care homes'
Families protest against continuing visitor restrictions in long-term care homes
WATCH: Families of those in long-term care say the restrictions are too severe and their loved ones inside the facilities are suffering as a result. They held a small protest today, against continuing visitor restrictions because of COVID-19. Jesse Thomas has more – Aug 4, 2020

There was a small protest held Tuesday outside a Halifax long-term care home, where families of loved ones rallied against continuing visitor restrictions because of COVID-19.

Families say the restrictions are too severe and their loved ones inside the facilities are suffering as a result and the province’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to visitor protocol is infringing on the rights and freedoms of the patients.

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“The caregivers are wonderful but they are not family,” said rally organizer Terry Stanislow, whose father, Frank, lives at the Camp Hill Memorial Hospital in Halifax.

Stanislow wrote a letter to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang saying visitor restrictions are too severe and have limited the chance of family to see her father, who she said gets two visits per week and the family is deferring those opportunities to their mother.

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“She is suffering as well because she is not able to go in and care for him and do the things she might normally do for him,” said Stanislow.

“It’s not a knock on the staff, they are professionals and giving their best care,” said Stanislow, but she said it’s the one-size-fits-all visitor plan from the province that isn’t working and creating unnecessary suffering on all sides of the family.

“We feel like he is a prisoner and we don’t have a lot of choices, you know he needs to be here,” she said.

Jan Marriott attended the protest, where she is advocating on behalf of her mother who is in long-term care at Northwood — the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nova Scotia — where 53 patients have died.

Marriott says visits are closely monitored there and she says there’s no long-term plan to allow residents the freedoms they once had.

“It feels like a prison visit, as the strict visitor protocols require a lot of staff and so the seniors suffer from limited visits,” Marriott said.

“She is sad and lonely, she has said that ‘I feel like a prisoner,'” said Marriott. “And going forward we don’t see any solutions to that.”

Nova Scotia Health says residents in long-term care are the most susceptible to suffering from COVID-19-related complications and safety is always their top priority.

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“The restrictions on visitation were put in place to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Heather Fairbairn, a spokesperson with the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness. “We continue to adjust and balance the public health and safety measures around visitation to keep residents and staff safe while supporting these important family connections.”

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Fairbairn said the department of health and wellness continues to monitor and adapt the protocols in place based on the epidemiology and their experience with the virus, while individual facilities will implement changes based on their operational considerations.

Progressive Conservative long-term care critic Barbara Adams says families are getting desperate to see their loved ones and the province needs to communicate better.

“The premier [Stephen McNeil] and Dr. [Robert] Strang gave the green light for families to go in and see their loved ones, the problem is the owners of the long-term care facilities were not ready for that,” said Adams.
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Adams has returned to work during the pandemic as a part-time physiotherapist in a long-term care home and says many facilities can’t accommodate or follow the province’s visitor protocols as staffing shortages and lack of space prevent that, and in the meantime is calling on the government to increase funding to help in those areas.

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