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Nursing homes too strict on visiting, says Flemish health minister

21:40 26/08/2020
From Flanders Today

The government of Flanders is concerned that residential care homes are being too cautious about visitors, restricting access even when the risk of spreading the coronavirus can be controlled. This leaves residents feeling unnecessarily isolated, says public health minister Wouter Beke (CD&V).

“With the co-operation of nursing homes, informal carers and visitors, we can balance health with mental well-being,” he said. “I’m calling here for care homes first of all to be humane.”

While residential care facilities were hit hard in the early months of the pandemic, conditions are now considered to be much improved. There are sufficient stocks of  protective equipment, and tests are available to preventively screen staff for the virus.

Under the present rules, visits to residents can be banned temporarily or restricted if there is an outbreak of the virus in the home, or even in the local community. This should be the exception rather than the rule, but many homes appear to be limiting visits to a half hour a week, or insisting that only one regular visitor be allowed for each resident.

“We are seeing nursing homes returning to this practice because of safety concerns, but the impact on the well-being of the residents is enormous,” said Katrien Schryvers (CD&V), a member of the Flemish parliament’s welfare committee, which has also been considering the issue this week.

“I think such a ban on visits, even if only temporarily, is disproportionate,” she continued. “It is also unacceptable for residents to live in fear of a possible ban on visits if an infection is detected.”

As well as calling on nursing homes to behave more humanely, Beke has referred the matter to the Covid-19 Care Taskforce. “I’ve asked the task force to follow up and evaluate visitor arrangements,” he said.

Photo ©Thierry Roge/BELGA

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)