The Chief Executive Officer at long-term care chain Omni Health Care believes new public health rules and regulations implemented today are fair and will help protect staff and residents from the Omicron variant.

Omni owns and operates homes across Southern Ontario including Lindsay’s Frost Manor, and Patrick McCarthy says he recognizes the need to balance risk with the needs of families.

“We believe the new restrictions do provide that balance, and the ability to spend time with family and friends,” says McCarthy.  “We do welcome the additional testing requirements for staff and visitors during these times of increased community transmission in order to keep our homes safe.”

One of the new restrictions requires long-term care homes to suspend overnight absences for social purposes, regardless of the resident’s vaccination status. Any resident who does leave their home overnight may be temporarily discharged and need to then follow a re-admission protocol at a later date. McCarthy says he believes residents returning will follow strict criteria when returning to the home.

“A resident would need to go through additional steps including PCR testing on days one and seven of return and would be in isolation until negative results are confirmed for day seven testing, as well as symptom screening for ten days upon return,” he says.

Other new rules include the testing of all staff, students, volunteers, and caregivers at least twice a week regardless of their vaccination status. All visitors will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test before entering a home and the maximum number of visitors will be capped at two at a time indoors and four during an outdoor visit. These may anger some family members particularly during the holidays, but McCarthy says Omni needs to observe the rules mandated by government.

“The great majority understand this and work with our staff to come up with viable ways to work within the directives in the best way possible, including alternatives such as video sessions,” says McCarthy. “People will understandably be upset by the circumstances, and our staff will do their best to communicate with them and reach an understanding.  It is unacceptable for our staff to face abuse or harassment as a result of the requirements.”

Just like any other part of the health care spectrum, front line staff and managers at long-term care homes are experiencing stress and burnout. McCarthy says Omni does everything they can to support workers who are concerned about the safety of residents as well as their own.

“We recognize that it is very difficult for front-line staff and managers, and we have attempted to support them with clear directions on the application of the new directives. The prolonged duration of the pandemic has impacted staff in many ways, and there have been frequent and complex changes in directives and policies that can be difficult to understand or interpret for residents and families,” he says.