MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WDHN) — Gov. Kay Ivey has issued an order to allow patients to be with at least one loved one at medical facilities.
The order gives a patient the right to have one caregiver or visitor at a time, but this is subject to “reasonable” restrictions.
This allows nursing home residents and others in long-term care facilities to finally have visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic while being safe, according to Ivey.
“I truly recognize it’s been a long, hard year” she said.
However, the governor made the point that the original order never kept people accompanying loved ones if they are caregivers or need to make health decisions when the patient is unable to.
“My office has heard too many reports of people that are being left without access to a caregiver so I want to be crystal clear,” Ivey said. “As of today, each patient and each resident is allowed one caregiver or one visitor with them at a time unless there are compelling reasons to limit access.”
Following the governor’s announcement, The Alabama Nursing Home Association announced a plan for indoor and outdoor visitation.
“It’s important for nursing home residents and their family members to be able to visit in person and this is another step toward returning life to normal in nursing homes,” said Brandon Farmer, President & CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association. “We are pleased CMS is moving in this direction and thankful Governor Kay Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris amended the state health order to accommodate this change.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service also said the facilities in “medium and high-positivity counties” to test visitors or have them get tests on their on.
“Facilities may also encourage visitors to be tested on their own prior to coming to the facility (e.g. within 2-3 days) with proof of negative test results and date of the test,” the CMS guidance states.
Visitors must also have to pass a health screening, wear a mask, and practice social distancing to protect nursing home residents and staff members.
Those who do not follow the guidelines will be kept from visitations.
On their part, nursing homes must have no new COVID-19 cases for two weeks and “not be currently conducting outbreak testing” to allow indoor visitation. They will also have to limit the number of visitors in the building as well as those per resident and put restrictions on visitor movement.
“Decreasing community spread and consistent testing are key to our ability to offer indoor visits,” Farmer said.
However, for facilities in counties with a positivity rate of more than 10 percent, indoor visitation will not be allowed.
Even with this new option, outdoor visitation is still preferred by the CMS, with the center recommending outdoor visits whenever possible. Visitation will be done by an appointment.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts from the Alabama Nursing Home Association:
- Do schedule an appointment to visit with your loved one
- Do use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before, during and after your visit
- Do wear a mask covering your mouth and nose during your entire visit in the facility
- Do maintain social distance of at least six feet from staff and residents
- Do keep out of areas that are not designated for visitation
- Don’t remove your mask while in the facility
- Don’t leave the designated visitation area
- Don’t come to the facility without an appointment
- Don’t come to the facility if you have any symptoms – coughing, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell – even if you attribute these symptoms to some other cause (allergies or cold).