STRUGGLE: Nursing homes interpret covid restrictions differently

Susanna Freymark

‘We want to hug Nanna and Pop.’

Families have had it tough this year if they have a family member in an aged care facility.

Covid restrictions have limited the number and time of visits.

It is a difficult balance for aged care homes with more than 400 covid cases reported in nursing homes since covid first came to our shores.

Several people contacted us to tell their stories about staying connected with loved ones in nursing homes during a pandemic.

None of them were willing to be named for fear of reprisal and consequences for their loved ones in the facilities.

St Michael’s Residential Care in Casino was one home where the rules were stricter than recommended by NSW Health and NSW Health Aged Care directives.

Visitors to St Michael’s felt that decisions were made in Sydney where lockdowns were longer and more severe than in Richmond Valley.

While NSW Public Health has stated that all staff must be fully vaccinated by October 25, the conditions residents and visitors received in a letter from St Michael’s were much harsher.

Here is a summary of the new visiting rules at St Michael’s in effect since October 12:

  • Visits must be booked in advance and take place between 9am-5pm to safely manage the number of visitors and undertake the necessary screening procedures. Telephone and online bookings, where available, will be supported. Please note that your preferred day or time may not be available, and the duration of your visit may be limited up to one hour, to accommodate visits for all residents.
  • Only fully vaccinated visitors over the age of 12 will be allowed to visit and proof must be shown of vaccinations.
  • Residents can have three visits a week, with each visit being up to two visitors from the same household.
  • Garden and window visits and in-room visits are preferred. No visits will be permitted in common areas.
  • We ask that visitors present with a negative PCR covid result, with the test date being within 48 hours of their visit, not when the result was received. Rapid antigen testing may be deemed necessary upon arrival.
  • Residents were “strongly encouraged” against outings unless for medical appointments.
  • Care packages could be sent to residents, but flowers had to handpicked, not from a florist.


At the Whiddon home in Kyogle, things seemed more relaxed.

Staff said they were following the NSW Health guidelines.

Whiddon allowed two visits a day to residents by appointment.

Residents could go out of the facility as long they weren’t in any hotspot areas.

Several other aged care homes in the area were contacted but few of them got back to us.

Why were the public health rules interpreted in such different ways?

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee said opening visitation could increase the risk of covid cases in facilities.

Aged facilities have outbreak plans, and a lockdown can happen at any time.

Rules are likely to change again tomorrow as the state hits 80% vaccination target.

Meantime, the anguish of families who have had to attend funerals via Zoom or celebrate their grandma’s 90th birthday from a distance, is all too real.

A tailored approach to country aged care facilities is required. Something that limits the risk of virus spread but allows families to show their love for each other.

HOSPITAL: Visits to loved ones made slightly easier










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