Coronavirus: Nursing homes adjust to ban on visitors

It was announced on April 1 that all nursing homes are not to accept visitors until April 30. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - Nursing homes in Singapore are adjusting to new circumstances after the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) announced on Wednesday (April 1) that all nursing homes are not to accept any visitors until April 30.

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 at 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 restricting family visits at its seven homes across Singapore to critically ill residents only. But following MOH and AIC's announcement a few hours later at about 8.30pm, it has now 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 bar on visitors, Econ has taken steps to facilitate telephone and video calls to residents. Family members can call assigned staff members to schedule a call at times that do not clash with residents' activities and meals.

Conscious 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.

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"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.

Orange Valley, another nursing home operator with five homes in Singapore, has also complied with the new bar 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 that 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."

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