Essential visitors guarantee needed in B.C. long-term care homes: BC Liberals

THE BC Liberals on Tuesday called on the government to ensure that every long term-care (LTC) resident in B.C. is permitted to have at least one essential visitor, as visitation restrictions are reintroduced in light of the Omicron variant surge.

“Advocates and families across the province, including [Provincial Health Officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry, have spoken about the importance of LTC residents having designated essential visitors — they can be critical to residents’ mental and physical health,” said Shirley Bond, Interim Leader of the Official Opposition. “However, over the past two years, the approval of these essential visitors has been left to individual care homes, rather than being guaranteed through government mandate. As a result, many families have struggled to obtain essential visitor status and have been unable to visit and care for their loved ones.”

According to BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, about 20 per cent of LTC residents have designated essential visitors. A survey from Mackenzie’s office reportedly found that some LTC residents said they would have preferred COVID-19 to the isolation they experienced not being able have visitors, demonstrating the profound impact isolation has had on seniors’ mental health and emotional well-being.

“Now that visiting restrictions are once again in place, it is absolutely vital the NDP makes it clear that every resident can have at least one essential visitor, regardless of the care home in which they reside. We are calling on the Minister of Health to make this decision as soon as possible and ensure the well-being of our vulnerable seniors as we continue to fight COVID-19.”