The wait is over for those wanting to visit loved ones in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities.

Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced today that visits will be allowed, once safety measures are in place in each facility.

Dr. Henry says the timing is right.

“It is the coming together of a number of different things that we’ve talked about in the past: the resources that we have in place now, the fact that we do have access to a supply of personal protective equipment, (and) the number of new cases is low.”

To start, residents can have one visitor at a time in a designated visiting space.

Dr. Henry said if things go well, “we will expand on these activities.”

The province has set B.C.-wide requirements that outline how these facilities can allow visitors.

Dr. Henry said, like many businesses that have reopened, they will need to have plans and precautions.

Visitations in long-term requirements include:

  • Facilities can’t be in an outbreak,
  • A written safety plan is in place, including designated staff who can screen everyone who comes in on entry, and can provide the guidance needed,
  • Visitors must bring and wear a mask, and
  • Visits will need to be booked in advance to ensure they can be spaced out throughout the day.

Those in assisted living will be able to have outside visits, so long as they follow public health precautions.

As well, barbers and hairdressers can go into facilities, provided they complete a safety plan that’s aligned with WorkSafe BC guidance.

Dr. Henry admitted that we are all a little anxious “because we know what can happen if we don’t get this right.”

“But moving thoughtfully, with care, will give us the confidence that we need to move forward and I know that this is what we can do here in British Columbia,” she added.

It may take some facilities a week to 10 days to have all of their provisions in place, Dr. Henry said, adding that “it will happen as soon as we can.”

The province is providing more than $160 million for facilities to hire up to three full-time equivalent staff in each of B.C.’s 680 long-term care homes and seniors’ assisted living residences, including both public and private facilities.

This could total as many as 2,040 additional staff dedicated to ensuring infection prevention and control measures for COVID-19 are followed to support safe visitation.

Dr. Henry is stressing patience moving forward.

“I know everybody is very excited and anxious to see their family or their friends, please be patient for a few more days until we ensure that all the safety measures are in place.”

She stressed that if you aren’t feeling well, to reschedule your visit for the safety of all of the residents.

The province will review the situation on an ongoing basis, at least monthly.

Finally, Dr. Henry thanked the seniors and elders in B.C. care homes for their patience during a confusing and difficult time.

“This has been a difficult time for you being separated from the ones you love, and for many people with things like dementia, it can be a very confusing and difficult time. You have shown resilience, determination, and courage, despite this challenge,” she said. “As we move forward, we will all do this well and carefully, so that sacrifice is not wasted.”