By Don Norman
Over the past month, we have been reporting about the controversy over the visitation protocol at Sunnywood Manor. Here’s a brief recap. Since late March, broad restrictions were already in place. The general rule was that there would be no visitors at all, except for compassionate reasons. There were concerns that this “compassion clause” was being misused. In response to the complaints, The IERHA stopped shut down all visitations for the site. Two weeks ago, IERHA CEO, Ron Van Denakker told me he was saddened by the episode and that the reason he shut down the all visitation was not because of concern over safety of residents of the PCH, but because he feared for the safety of his staff from over-zealous family members who had been complaining.
I followed some of the threads on social media. I wouldn’t say anything I read on would leave me thinking that anyone’s safety was threatened. Of course that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – just that I didn’t see it.
Even if there was a threat, I was surprised that Van Denakker responded in that way. Implying that aggrieved family members of Sunnywood residents were threatening the safety of the staff at Sunnywood wasn’t going to make this issue go away.
So, from a public relations standpoint, I might question the wisdom of Van Denakker’s statements. But I think his “sadness” over the reaction is well-placed.
Before I go there, I have to admit that if I had an ailing family member in Sunnywood, I could easily see myself thumping the drum over this issue. We have all heard the horrifying stories of the carnage COVID-19 causes to personal care homes that have experienced an outbreak. And three weeks ago, things were far less clear than they are now, in terms of the threat here in Manitoba. So, the fear and passion about this issue are very understandable. Justifiable, even. But close proximity to a situation skews objectivity.
At some point, we must have faith in the health care professionals with whom we have entrusted our families’ safety. It’s not our job to micromanage them with binoculars from across the parking lot.
Neither the staff, nor the visitors at Sunnywood, are in quarantine when they aren’t at the facility. So, if the visitors are provided with the same instructions and same protective equipment that staff is, the risk is the same. So the issue is not really safety. The issue is that some get to visit, while others can’t.
So, how do we define “compassion”? Is it specifically when someone is dying? Is it because some residents are better equipped to deal with isolation better than others? The fact is, ‘WE’ don’t define it. ‘WE’ must leave that decision in the hands of those trained to make those decisions. They aren’t easy decisions and I don’t envy them.
Manitoba Chief Nursing officer, Lanette Siragusa, said it best when she was asked about PCH visitation policies. “It’s difficult to draw a line in the sand because there are always exceptions to rules. I think on an individual case-by-case basis we have to use clinical judgement and be human about the situation.”