The problem with locking down nursing homes
NURSING homes are in lockdown, with some banning visits from family and friends in defiance of government advice to allow controlled visits.
Regis Health Care has banned all visitors for two weeks.
"The health and safety of our residents is our first priority, and our homes will enter into a periods of stringent access controls for two weeks,'' it said in a memo.
"This means no visitors.''
McKenzie Aged Care Group chief executive Andrew Newton informed families this week of a preventive lockdown.
"We are advising that families and visitors do not visit our facilities until further notice,'' he said.
"All non-essential contacts will be suspended - this includes volunteer visits, bus trips, hairdressers, external entertainment etc.
"Visits from GPs and allied health providers will continue.
"We are not taking this decision lightly, however this pandemic is an unprecedented situation.''
The drastic lockdowns fly in the face of federal Health Department advice to let each resident have two visitors in their room for short visits, so long as they do not have any cold symptoms, have not been overseas or in contact with a COVID-19 carrier in the past fortnight.
A federal Health Department spokeswoman said that "providers may have their own arrangements to manage the risk of an outbreak, which may include stricter measures''.
Carinity Aged Care is still permitting short visits from immediate family members, such as the spouse or children of a resident, during a two-hour window each day.
Visitors must have their temperature taken at the door, avoid communal spaces such as dining rooms, and stay 1.5m away from anyone they speak to.
"Residents should not be taken out of the facility as this will increase the risk of their infection and place other residents at increased risk,'' Carinity chief executive Jon Campbell said yesterday.
Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates warned that some nursing homes were overreacting by banning all visitors.
He feared nursing homes could drug residents to keep them calm if family members could not visit.
"An example is the elderly wife who comes each day to sit and talk for hours with her husband with advanced dementia,'' he said.
"If she is prevented from doing this her husband will become anxious, disorientated and have behavioural problems, and the facility will have to spend more staff time with him, or he will end up being drugged.''
Mr Yates said lockdowns should only be used in case of a COVID-19 infection among staff or residents.
"If an aged-care facility can manage the health and safety of its staff, who come and go daily and could potentially pose a significant health risk to residents, then there is no reason it can't also safely manage family visitors with strict control measures,'' he said.
Originally published as The problem with locking down nursing homes