There are mixed emotions from residents of personal care homes and their families when it comes to having visitors inside the home with the phase 4 announcement.
Before July 25, the only visitations residents of personal care homes could have was outside, on the grounds of the facility after being screened. That or virtual visits on a screen.
"We've seen the angst and the emotion of our residents, and families have been vocal. They intellectually understand the public health measures, but emotionally and psychologically it's been very hard," says Gary Ledoux, the CEO of the Bethania Group in Winnipeg.
"The most important announcement that was made, both by the Premier and then by the Minister of Health, Cameron Friesen, was they want us to begin in-room visits by family members."
Ledoux is in charge of two facilities, the Bethania Mennonite Personal Care Home and the Pembina Place Mennonite Personal Care Home.
The two facilities that he oversees are starting to implement these new visitation guidelines on August 4. When the Minister announced phase 4 reopening with regards to personal care homes, Ledoux says very few personnel were prepared for it at the time.
"Designated family members can come into the facility, go to a resident's room, then sit and visit with them for virtually as long as they want each day."
When it comes to guidelines, there are many that each person must follow, in order to try and maintain the health and safety of all involved.
"The guidelines are that the families go right to the residents' room, that they stay in that room, they don't wander in other areas, and that they don't make contact with other residents or staff. If they want, they can take a resident outside to our park areas."
Ledoux says, "They'll also be doing hand hygiene and we insist that everyone wear a mask for those who come into the facility."
"It's going to be an important change for our residents and for their families. Many residents are feeling isolated, even with outdoor visits. It's still not the same as being close to a person in a room and having that chance to talk intimately."
Nina Labun is the CEO of Donwood Manor in Winnipeg, which is also a faith-based, Mennonite care facility. She oversees one personal care and four housing buildings.
The Donwood facility has already had inside visitors since the day of the announcement on July 25.
"We felt quite strongly that we would go with a Saturday opening [July 25, the same day the Premier announced phase 4 logistics]. The team worked tirelessly on Thursday and Friday putting all the processes in place. There were a bunch of requirements."
Although it's only been three days, Labun says, "It's going really well."
"For our families and residents, it's the news they've been waiting for. Having said that, there is a range of responses toward this."
Donwood sent out a survey to all the families to gather their opinion with phase 4 moving forward and then worked hard to implement everything in time for the announcement.
"Each resident has two designated family caregivers that are allowed to come into the facility, and then they're allowed four general caregivers that we continue to facilitate outdoor visits with."
They follow a specific protocol when it comes to the guidelines of these visits, as each personal care home can set their own within reason.
"We felt with this being so new for everyone, that active screening is an important part of us making sure that people coming in understand their critical role in keeping everyone healthy."
Their guidelines include the three "S's". Screen, sanitize, and sign in.
"I would say we had about 50% of people come in in the last three days. I thought it would be a lot higher, just given the emails and comments of "please let us come in". I think it sheds some light the balance that we're walking between facilitating and supporting those important relationships while recognizing the risk."
Visiting days and hours are set by each facility.
Labun says, "It's a calling, not a job. We truly value our relationships that we make with the people in our care and the families that become part of our family."
Letting people into the facility does carry risk, and some families have voiced their concern with this new phase of reopening.
Ledoux says, "Your prayers are welcome. Keep God in mind as we're doing this."