The Southern Health Trust says its priority is patient safety amid calls for the regulations to be aligned to other health trusts.
Upper Bann candidate for the NI Assembly Dolores Kelly said that while most people are largely supportive, it is ‘difficult to comprehend that the restrictions in SHSCT are so much tighter than many hospitals elsewhere’.
Mrs Kelly said: I’ve also spoken to frontline staff who tell me how distressing it is for them to have tell patients and their relatives what the rules are, this adds considerably to the emotional burden already carried by too many nursing and medical staff. The Trust needs to communicate more effectively to help us all to understand why things are done a certain way and also reassure the public that whilst patient safety will always be a priority that restrictions will be eased at the earliest opportunity.”
A Trust spokesperson said: “Our priority is to create as safe an environment as possible for visitors, patients and staff and our current visiting arrangements are in place to maintain patient safety at a time of continued high levels of COVID 19 in our community.
“People with COVID 19 may be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and thus unknowingly transmit COVID 19 to others. Vulnerable inpatients are also at an increased risk of contracting COVID 19.
“Visiting increases footfall in our hospital wards along with the risk of onward transmission of COVID 19 to other patients and staff. In contrast to other hospitals, our estate is older and as a consequence we are trying to manage high risk vulnerable patients across multi occupancy bays and a small number of side rooms.
“The Trust is working to facilitate the Care Partner approach to support patients with care needs, anyone who considers they meet the criteria for this arrangement should contact the ward manager or nurse in charge to discuss. This arrangement is in addition to the current twice weekly visiting. There are arrangements in place and have been for some time to facilitate visiting for those patients in exceptional circumstances who would benefit from a visit as per the clinical team .
“Our Virtual Visiting Service is also available to keep families in touch with patients. Call 07776516419 between 9am and 5pm to arrange and our Virtual Visiting Officer will set up the visit for the patient. Our arrangements remain under review.”