Nursing homes tightening restrictions to curb spread of Covid-19

KUALA LUMPUR (May 23): News that 21 Covid-19 cases have been detected at several old folks homes in Malaysia has left operators scrambling to tighten regulations in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly virus among the most vulnerable members of society.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told reporters that 21 residents and staff at nursing homes had tested positive for the coronavirus out of the 9,322 samples taken to date.

Tests had been conducted at 267 old folks homes so far, he said. 

“The number of positive cases is 21, or 0.2% (of those tested),” he said.

Old folks home operators Bernama talked to are looking for ways to tighten procedures and plug any loopholes in place.

Sunny Manocha, founder and director of Solace Care nursing home in Taman OUG here, said the facility would have to go into a total lockdown again.

“For us, it’s easy to contract viruses as they are already old and vulnerable,” he said, adding that the home will conduct its own testing of staff and residents.

Solace Care had started relaxing its rules when the government eased the Movement Control Order (MCO) restrictions on May 4, allowing families to start visiting their relatives again once a week, but only after they have tested negative for Covid-19. Otherwise, all restrictions remain the same: employees are still required to stay in accommodations provided for them and only leave to go to work, per Social Welfare Department guidelines.

Anna Chew, chief marketing officer at CARE Concierge, which manages The Mansion nursing homes, said measures like banning visitors, screening everyone going in and requiring staff to stay on-site should be able to prevent infection.

She said the home will maintain its standard operating procedure (SOP) which, among others, requires residents to wear locators that will inform staff if they get too close to each other. 

Gopal Thirumalai, owner of Whitedove Retirement Home, confirmed his facility would be continuing with its current restrictions, which are similar to those of other homes.

Delgren Terrence Douglas, president of Association for Residential Aged Care Operators of Malaysia (Age Cope), said that infections should not have happened if guidelines had been followed. His organisation represents more than 200 of the estimated 1,700 facilities in Malaysia.

“Coronavirus can only come from outside from visitors and staff. So as long as operators follow the guidelines and go full lockdown, they’re safe,” he said.

However, he warned that a full lockdown could not go on forever, as residents, relatives and caregivers were already feeling the strain of being separated and isolated. 

“That’s why we requested, through the University of Malaya, for the Ministry of Health to do full screening of the homes,” he said.

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