Coronavirus pandemic

Nursing homes adjust to ban on visitors, offer support to residents

Above: Disinfecting procedures taking place yesterday at the Moral Home for the Aged Sick in Jalan Bilal, where one employee has tested positive for the virus. All nursing homes will not accept visitors until April 30.
Above: Disinfecting procedures taking place yesterday at the Moral Home for the Aged Sick in Jalan Bilal, where one employee has tested positive for the virus. All nursing homes will not accept visitors until April 30.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Nursing homes here are adjusting to new circumstances after the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) announced on Wednesday that they are not to accept any visitors until the end of this month.

This comes after a new cluster of coronavirus infections emerged at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home at Thomson Lane.

There are now 12 cases of infections in the cluster, including nine residents of the home, one of whom is 102 years old.

While the barring of visits can be distressing to both residents and their families, nursing home operators insist that the measures are in the best interests of all parties and are a necessary inconvenience.

Econ Healthcare Group first announced on Wednesday that it was allowing family visits at its seven homes across Singapore for critically ill residents only. Following the announcement by MOH and AIC a few hours later at about 8.30pm, it has barred all visitors.

Mr Ong Chu Poh, chief executive and chairman of Econ Healthcare Group, said he has not received much resistance from family members and residents since limiting visitors.

Family members support the measures as they know it is necessary for the safety of their loved ones and themselves, he said.

Prior to the restrictions, families were encouraged to visit residents at Econ's homes at least once a week.

With the ban, Econ has taken steps to facilitate telephone and video calls to residents.

Family members can call staff to schedule a call at times that do not clash with residents' activities and meals.

Aware that some residents may miss their families or worry about them, Mr Ong said Econ's psychology-trained staff will engage residents in conversation more frequently to keep their spirits up.

"They will place a hand on their shoulders, talk to them, and remind them of the importance of being safe during this coronavirus pandemic," he said.

  • The elderly

  • • Older people or those with other health conditions are more likely to develop more severe infections, experts said.

    • Four patients above 60 years old have died in Singapore so far.

    • The oldest Covid-19 patient, reported on Wednesday, is a 102-year-old Singaporean woman from Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home in Thomson Road. It is the first old folks' home cluster. The cluster, which started as a single case on Tuesday, is now linked to 12 cases, of which nine are elderly residents of the home.

    • The other three cases related to the home are a 42-year-old Indian employee who cares for female residents, a 44-year-old Sri Lankan man who is a family member of the Indian employee, and a 32-year-old Indian woman who was confirmed to have been infected with the virus yesterday. The man works at the Moral Home for the Aged Sick in Bedok in a non-patient facing role.

    • Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home serves more than 100 residents.

    • In 2018, there were almost 12,000 people in nursing homes run by private operators and charities, excluding residents of welfare homes run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

    • Visitors are no longer allowed at all nursing homes, starting yesterday.

    Clara Chong

Orange Valley, another nursing home operator with five homes in Singapore, has also complied with the new ban on visitors. Until Wednesday, it had already restricted visitations to one visitor at a time for each resident, for a maximum of two hours.

Ms Lyn Edel Yip, chief executive of Orange Valley, said: "We understand that such measures will inconvenience family members who wish to visit and accompany their loved ones in person.

"However, we urge all family members to understand that this is in the best interest of their loved ones as well as other vulnerable elderly in the nursing home. We hope that everyone will play a part to keep our healthcare facilities safe for our elderly."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'Nursing homes adjust to ban on visitors, offer support to residents'. Print Edition | Subscribe