Visitor restrictions in long-term care (LTC) during an outbreak or pandemic are implemented due to the perceived risk of transmission between residents or staff and visitors.
· Social isolation and possible loss of care resulting from visitor restrictions in LTC may place residents at risk of poorer outcomes in terms of both physical and mental health, as well as distress to families and staff (see Saskatchewan LTC Network Family Perspective).
· Visitor restriction policies typically allow visits for compassionate reasons that include end of life, critical care, and support of persons who require assistance beyond that provided by healthcare e.g. support for feeding, mobility, or behaviors, but specific detail on these is not consistent or clear.
· Recent changes to visitation policies in Australia are less restrictive and allow brief visitations (end of table 1, noted in red font).
· Although the majority of policies describe a need for flexibility and case-by-case assessment of visits deemed “essential”, the majority of policies are not clear in who is to conduct this analysis or the criteria that should be used to make these decisions.
Visitation policies differ in detail regarding the number of visitors allowed at one time, total number of visitors allowed, visit duration, mobility within the home and location of the visit.
· Remote and technology assisted visits are to be facilitated by LTC staff.
· Infection control practices are enforced for visitors, and may include screening (e.g. temperature, symptoms, travel and contact history), prohibiting ill visitors, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), hand and cough hygiene.
· Education of visitors and support for proper infection control practices is encouraged in the majority of policies.
Tupper, S; Ward, H; Howell-Spooner, B; Dalidowicz, M; Boden, C. How is "compassionate visit" defined and operationalized in the context of an infectious outbreak or pandemic in long-term care? 2020 May 1; Document no.: LTC042402
RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 17 p. (CEST rapid review report)
Core concepts of family engagement include dignity and respect, information sharing, participation in care and decision making, and collaboration (Hart 2020).
A careful balance needs to be maintained between attending to patients’ physical and psychological needs and adhering to infection control guidelines, while offering psychological support to family members (Chan 2006).
The word ‘visitation’ does not adequately describe family members’ involvement. Family presence is a more suitable term as it redefines families as partners in care (Hart 2020). However, it is important to recognize that family presence is not a substitute for adequate staffing levels.
Very little guidance is provided in the literature on innovative or specific approaches engage family care providers during a pandemic. The literature mainly focuses on supporting alternate forms of communication such as telephone calls, or technology assisted communication through social media or video/voice calls.
Enhanced communication strategies that provide regular information to a primary family contact on the patient/resident condition and allow chosen care partners to contribute to decision making as much as possible are recommended (Koller 2006).
The negative impact of visitation restrictions places increased stress on patients/residents and families who are unable to provide or receive non-healthcare specific supportive care. Those with neurocognitive disorders or communication barriers are more significantly impacted.
Staff also report increased stress during family visitation restrictions due to the additional time required to take on a “familial role” for the patient/resident. These roles may include providing a supportive environment, social interaction, information sharing, and opportunities for play (Koller 2006a – pediatric hospital setting).
The search question did not specifically look at impact of visitation on infection rates; therefore, there is insufficient information to determine if visitation policies affect infection rates. However, a systematic review in pediatric hospital setting in Ontario found no connection between liberal visiting hours and increased SARS infection rates (Smith 2009).
When facilitating sibling visitation in the NICU, a pre-visit education process is recommended. Maternity settings may wish to consider a 'combination' policy, where the women's partners and/or significant other would have open visiting (all day), with restricted visiting for others. In other general hospital ward settings, open visiting with a 'quiet hour' is suggested (Smith 2009).
Tupper, S; Ward, H; Dalidowicz, M; Boden, C; Ellsworth, C; What are best practices for engaging family care providers during a pandemic? 2020 Apr 16; Document no.: LTC042401 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 22 p. (CEST rapid review report)
· There was no source of Canadian data (published or grey, federal or provincial) to address this question and differentiate between types of ventilation.
· There are several studies available assessing the proportions seen in other countries and a lot of theoretical literature about using non-invasive ventilation (NIV) as a first-line intervention to hopefully avoid intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), for which there is weak evidence.
· Key studies include an analysis of 36 ICU patients in Wuhan in which 41.7% received NIV and 47.2% received MIV. Another large-scale study of 1,099 hospitalized patients reported IMV in 6.1% with no report of NIV.
Badea, A; Groot, G; Dalidowicz, M; Miller, L. In similar jurisdictions experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, what is the proportion of patients receiving non-invasive ventilation versus those receiving intermittent mandatory ventilation? 2020 May 22; Document no.: EOC052102 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 8 p. (CEST rapid review report)
No studies directly evaluated the association between level of surge capacity and quality of care indicators for COVID-19 patients. However, in more broad studies, the findings suggest that mortality and other adverse events increase when the strain on the intensive care capacity increases.
A tiered staffing strategy is recommended to meet surge capacity needs in the ICU: High critical care nurse to patient ratios (1:1 or 1:2) are recommended to provide high quality patient care.
There is a lack of high-quality evidence to support ICU triage protocols tailored for patients with COVID-19. Nevertheless, the protocols must be flexible, adaptable according to the availability of local resources, and effective for inter-hospital patient transfer.
While the Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) guidelines (e.g., Saskatchewan’s Critical Care Resource Allocation Framework, published on September 2020) can be used to triage newly admitted COVID-19 patients requiring critical care, there is contradicting evidence about using the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score for ICU triage of patients with COVID-19.
The literature suggests the use of mathematical modeling to support capacity planning (e.g., very low, low, medium, and high intensity patient surge response)
To relieve pressure from ICUs, other types of units (e.g., Step Down Unit [SDU] or Surge Clinic) can be implemented.
Azizian, A; Valiani, S; Groot, G; Badea, A; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. At what level of surge capacity do quality of care indicators suffer? 2020 Dec 10; Document no.: CC120301 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 17 p. (CEST rapid review report)
· There is little literature on the performance of triage frameworks. However, critiques of frameworks can help to inform the development of future protocols.
· It is ethically problematic to include age as a triage factor rather than the more nuanced factors of frailty and chronic comorbidities.
· The public should be included when creating triage protocols to create transparency and trust in the health system.
· Healthcare providers should be familiar with the ethical decisions that have been made in establishing the protocols. However, using a triage team to make decisions about resource allocation would alleviate moral burden from clinicians.
· Regular review of current guidelines, such as the use of SOFA scores, is recommended as knowledge about COVID-19 changes.
Rapid Review Report: CC120401 RR (Version 1: December 17, 2020 11:45) 2
· Patients should be regularly reassessed to allow for timely redistribution of critical resources.
Fick, F; Valiani, S; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. Does data exist on the performance of triage or resource allocation frameworks for COVID-19 and other pandemics? 2020 Dec 17; Document no.: CC120401 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 91 p. (CEST rapid review report)
· Tele-ICU services are provided either by existing staff within the network to smaller centers, or outsourced to larger networks or independent firms
· The impact of tele-ICU adoption can result in a decrease in ICU mortality as large as 32%
· The impact of tele-ICU adoption of length of stay is mixed, with some studies reporting a significant decrease, while others report a small, but statistically insignificant decrease
· The degree of impact of tele-ICU adoption is linked to several factors such as yearly admission rates, location (urban vs. rural) and level of authority given to the tele-ICU team leading to increased positive impacts.
Badea, A; Groot, G; Reeder, B; Young, C; Ellsworth, C; Howell-Spooner, B. How to deliver remote ICU care for COVID-19 patients to avoid/prevent transfer from smaller communities to tertiary care hospitals. 2021 Apr 6; Document no.: CC210301 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 13p. (CEST rapid review report)
There exists some ambiguity across jurisdictions and thus there is no clear universal case definition of COVID-19 hospitalization.
Public Health Ontario measures hospitalization as “the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases that reported ever being hospitalized during their infection”- i.e., all cases reported as ever being hospitalized during their infection.
The category “incidental COVID-19 hospitalizations” has been proposed. This refers to patients who are primarily admitted for other ailments and test positive as part of routine screening.
Some jurisdictions and health agencies have started differentiating between those who were admitted for COVID-19-related illness and incidental admissions. Ontario and Saskatchewan have begun using this category in their regular reporting of COVID-19 statistics.
New data from Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada indicate that 30 to 50 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations are “incidental COVID-19 hospitalization” – 46% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ontario (as of January 11th, 2022) and 40% in Saskatchewan (as of January 26th, 2022)
Some expert opinions caution that such binary categorization may oversimplify clinical reality, and suggests also employing an ‘indeterminate’ category
Asamoah, G; Badea, A; Reeder, B; Groot, G; Muhajarine, N; Howell-Spooner, B; Young, C. What is the (case) definition of hospitalization for COVID-19 in similar jurisdictions? 2022 Feb 10. Document no.: CAC220101 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2022. 9 p. (CEST rapid review report).