The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is expanding their criteria for compassionate reasons related to visitation restrictions at hospitals and long term care facilities.
The decision comes after establishing a Family Presence Expert Panel with patient and family advisors, along with public health and infection prevention control experts. The goal of the panel was to provide guidance on recommendations to support family presence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the need to protect our patients, residents and staff has not changed, we also recognize there is a need to find the right balance between physical safety, mental health and well being,” said SHA CEO Scott Livingstone during a press conference.
“We know that illness and age can make time an especially precious commodity for many in our care,” he added.
Part of the expanded criteria includes all critical care and intensive care patients in the compassionate care definition, and family presence for palliative care has been expanded to facilitate two family members or support people being present at the same time.
Another expansion to criteria includes the use of quality of life considerations in addition to care needs to determine if the needs cannot be met without the support of a designated family member or support person.
Additionally, guidelines have been revised to ensure that it is clear there can be one family or support person for inpatient, outpatient, emergency and urgent care patients who have specific challenges resulting in compromised understanding, decision making or mobility due to disability or onset of a medical condition.
The SHA said they have also created new guidelines to safely support outdoor visits. The visits are not limited to one person at a time. Masks will be provided to all outpatients, family members and support workers will be provided medical grade masks to be worn while in SHA homes and facilities.
Livingstone said at any point if there is a potential for the healthcare system to be overwhelmed by COVID-19, the SHA will reactivate their emergency operations centre to centrally manage activities.
“I can’t stress this enough, this is not a return to normal, [this is] rather our new normal,” Livingstone said.
Livingstone said doing anything that takes the province to a new norm holds risk.
“We know COVID-19 is still with us, but based on what we are seeing in the province today with low numbers and the management of outbreaks to date, we feel this is warranted,” Livingstone said.
“The important message is we need to do this safely. We need to do it in a way where we’re monitoring it very carefully,” he added.