It’s important to resume PA nursing home visits, so friends and family members can see their loved ones. In the months since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the United States, nearly 70 percent of COVID-related deaths in Pennsylvania have occurred in nursing homes and personal care facilities. As the state continues to grapple with developing policies effective at controlling infection, it also looks to mitigate another health toll the coronavirus is taking on nursing home residents: depression and loneliness associated with isolation. Reopening facilities for visitation—safely—would help alleviate the emotional suffering many residents have been experiencing.
Having revised previous rules regarding how nursing homes and long-term care facilities could safely reopen their doors to visitors, Pennsylvania has released new guidance on personal care home visitation during the coronavirus pandemic, says an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Previously, a facility could only look into allowing visitors 28 days after its county moved into the “green” reopening phase as outlined by Gov. Tom Wolf. According to the Inquirer article, Pennsylvania says facilities might allow visitation even in a “yellow” phase, provided a series of prerequisites outlined by the state Department of Health and Human Services are met.
First and foremost, say the rules, long-term care facilities must go 14 days with zero new COVID-19 cases, either among residents or staff. Once this requirement is met, a facility must then meet the following criteria before allowing visitors:
- A visitation plan that outlines visitation requirements and safety measures, as well as how they will be implemented, must be formulated and posted to a facility’s website (provided it has one).
- The facility must meet all PA baseline requirements for coronavirus testing for all staff and residents.
- Facilities must be equipped to administer tests within 24 hours to any resident showing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Protocols must be established for screening all staff prior to a shift, for each resident on a daily basis, and for any person entering the facility.
- Adequate staffing must be maintained.
- Every facility must have on hand an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for all staff.
Once these prerequisites—and any other criteria established by a facility—are met, nursing home visits can resume, although only by appointment, only in areas not occupied by residents, and only while adhering to universal masking requirements. Priority for visits will be given to those residents who demonstrate cognitive decline or have expressed feelings of loneliness or depression. Other new provisions to help combat the loneliness or isolated residents are those allowing certain activities and limited communal dining—but only if the above prerequisites have been met. Masking requirements and six-foot spacing must be strictly followed.
According to the Inquirer, New Jersey also will conduct limited visits at nursing and long-term care facilities, although only outside and only by appointment. Adherence to masking and six-foot spacing requirements is mandatory. Visitors and residents must give informed consent regarding the possibility of COVID exposure, and visitors are required to report testing positive for COVID within 14 days of their visit to the home.
Ensuring PA Nursing Home Visits Are Safe
In these uncertain times, it’s critical that your loved one’s Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home is taking every safety precaution to ensure the health of its residents. If you’re concerned about the safety or quality of care of a Philadelphia/PA or NJ facility during the coronavirus pandemic, or if you suspect neglect or abuse has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.