The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is expanding its criteria for compassionate reasons related to visitation restrictions.
The SHA established a Family Presence Expert Panel with patient and family advisors, along with public health and Infection Prevention and Control experts, to provide guidance on recommendations to support family presence during COVID-19.
Following the work of the expert panel, the new inclusions to compassionate care can be used immediately with full implementation planned for the coming week.
1. For residents in long-term care, quality of life considerations will now be used in addition to care needs to determine if these needs cannot be met without the support of a designated family member or support person. In these situations, two family members/support people can be designated with one family/support person present at a time.
2. All critical care and intensive care patients are now included in the compassionate care definition (previously limited to those at high risk for loss of life) and family presence for palliative care has been expanded to facilitate two family members/support people being present at the same time.
3. Guidelines have also been revised to ensure that it is clear that there can be one family member or support person for inpatient, outpatient, emergency/urgent care patients who have specific challenges resulting in compromised comprehension, decision making or mobility due to disability or onset of a medical condition. This could include mobility, hearing, speech including communication barriers, intellectual or mental health disability, and visual or memory impairment.
4. New guidelines have also been created to safely support outdoor visits with these visits NOT limited to one person at a time.
“Compassionate care means different things to different people, so we worked hard together to review this and come up with adjustments that still ensure we are protected when living or coming into these facilities,” a patient and family advisor on the SHA Family Presence Expert Panel and co-chair, SHA’s provincial patient and family leadership council Heather Thiessen said. “Like so many others, I need my partner there with me if I require emergency care. Otherwise, I am in danger of not understanding or being able to communicate what is happening to me to my care providers. I am so proud of the work our panel is doing, and I look forward working with the SHA to support families in keeping each other physically and mentally safe in this pandemic world we live in.”
Decision tools have been created for care teams to assist with knowing when a patient or long-term care resident can have a family member or support person with them in person. This includes ensuring clear guidelines for designated family members or support people to follow such as screening, hand hygiene and limited movement within a site. Individuals will also be asked to review a SHA Family Presence Commitment document, created by the family expert panel.
“When the global pandemic hit Saskatchewan in March, our first priority was to physically protect our patients and residents from contracting COVID-19,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said. “We needed to tightly control who was coming into our facilities given the potential consequences for our long-term care residents and our patients. That hasn’t changed. But we have also learned that we need find the right balance between physical safety and mental health and well-being. We have heard that clearly from our residents, patients and families. So, together, we are trying to find the right path forward in the weeks and months ahead.”
As an additional level of safety, all outpatients and family members/support persons will be provided with a medical grade mask and asked to wear it while in SHA homes and facilities.
For more information on visitation guidelines, visit the new section on www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19 under Visiting SHA facilities.