Meredith Thompson and Adrian Brown want nursing homes to to comply with the Federal Government two-visitor advice.
(ABC News: Simon Tucci)
When The Views at Heidelberg nursing home was put into lockdown a month ago, Meredith Thompson feared she would never see her 87-year-old uncle again.
Her uncle, who was recently diagnosed with liver cancer and given three months to live, stays at the facility where only doctors, health workers and staff are permitted inside.
“To be told we can’t visit him at all, and to be told he’s been given a terminal diagnosis is impossible to deal with,” she said.
After pleading with the operators of the centre, Ms Thompson said over the weekend she and her partner were granted bi-weekly visits to the facility.
Ms Thompson and her partner have called on the Federal Government to force aged care centres to abide by its recommendations.
A spokesperson for the nursing home operators, Benetas, said the “extremely difficult” decision to stop family visits was made when the extent of the coronavirus spread was unknown.
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“We are now working towards a softening of these measures, in line with the approaching May 11 review of the Victorian Government’s current Stage 3 restrictions,” the spokeswoman said.
Difficult balance between safety and sensitivity
Patricia Sparrow, the chief executive of peak body Aged and Community Services Australia, backed nursing homes that chose to impose stricter measures than the two-visitor recommendation made by the Federal Government.
She said the sector’s “100 per cent focus was on keeping residents safe and well” and that included facilitating family visits or other forms of contact, such as video calls.
“Providers are making decisions based on what’s happening on the ground,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.
Ms Sparrow said visits should be granted when residents were dying or if there were compassionate grounds.
The Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said the advocacy group urged any families with complaints to contact the aged care watchdog, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
“What we have are families concerned that they have not had any contact at all for weeks,” he said.
Some residents trapped in lockdown cycle
Melbourne renal physician Dr Margaret Fraenkel said some nursing homes were going too far and putting some residents in a cycle of isolation within the facilities themselves.
Dr Fraenkel said some residents who were taken to hospital regularly for kidney dialysis treatment, were put into self-isolation when they returned.
“The nursing homes are saying because they’ve left the facility, they need to be in lockdown for 14 days. Because [the hospital treatment] happens every two days, the 14 days never finishes,” she said.
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