Shepparton Villages allows visits to residents from May 6 as region's virus cases remain low.
By Charmayne Allison. As printed in the Shepparton News on 29 April 2020.
Shepparton Villages is easing visitation restrictions as COVID-19 rates remain low in the Goulbum Valley.
From May 6, the aged care facility will introduce pre-booked face-to-face visits, strictly managed to ensure the continued safety of residents.
Chief executive Kerri Rivett said the continuation of these loosened restrictions would be dependent on infection rates both locally and nationally.
"We have developed the visitation program. taking into consideration the current environment and all risk and infection control processes," she said.
"However, should we or the community have an infectious outbreak of any sort, these will be revised immediately.
"We will not compromise on the safety of residents and staff, nor will we tolerate inappropriate behaviour towards staff as part of this process.
"It s been a really lough decision to lift the restrictions. but we appreciate everyone is keen to see their loved ones."
Shepparton Villages has had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date, despite 10 cases confirmed in the district.
Ms Rivett said this is was due to strict infection control measures at the facility, which will continue despite eased visitation restrictions.
"All visits, which will go for 30 minutes, must be pre-booked so we can control who Is coming and going for everybody's safety," she said.
"Staff will screen visitors at the door, showing them how to wash their hands and taking their temperature, ensuring they are not sick.
"Visitors must practise social distancing at all times and only visit their loved one, going straight (to) their room and not touching anything along the way."
While Ms Rivett acknowledged these measures could seem extreme to some, she emphasised these were exceptional times.
"People may have visited their loved ones in our facilities before; however, this was not during a global pandemic,'' she said.
"We want residents to see their families and loved ones and return to some sort of normality. However, we will not compromise on the safety of residents and staff."
Ms Rivett said most families had embraced the restrictions to date, although some claimed they were too strict.
While the Federal Government has advised aged care residents can have two visitors a day, many facilities such as Shepparton Villages have opted for tighter limitations.
"All facilities like Maculata Place, that advice would have meant an additional 240 people coming through our front door each day. That's a mass gathering," Ms Rivett said.
"These are our most vulnerable people - just look at Europe, where 50 percent of deaths are in residential care."
On Friday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned facilities imposing, visitor rules beyond the national coronavirus advice to stop, stating residents in some facilities were "stuck in their room'', unable to be visited by loved ones.
The comments sparked a wave of outrage from the sector, with more than 700 aged care providers organising a Zoom call with Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck.
Ms Rivett, who took pan in the call said many in the industry claimed government advice around aged care was inconsistent with general COVID-19 messaging.
"Some ministers have even said they wouldn't visit their own parents at this time because that would put them at risk," she said.
"And yet we're being asked to open our doors back up. That is just so inconsistent.
"We are not locking people up. Our residents have still been engaged, taking part in activities, and we have done our utmost to keep them connected with their families through video calls.
"We haven't enjoyed putting these restrictions in place. But in the end. we're all here to protect our most vulnerable - and that's the residents."
Visiting hours will be between 1.30 pm and 4.30 pm, seven days a week, with visiting hours extended from 10 am to 4 pm on Mother's Day.
Residents can have only one visit booked per day, with a maximum of two visitors. Visitors can book only two visits in advance.
Families can start booking today by phoning the admissions team on 5832 0807 or 5832 0877.