Judges back the safe re-opening of SETX long-term care facilities to visitors

Iris Parnell is in remarkably good shape (except for a little dementia and some depression) for a 94 year old woman.

But Iris hasn’t been visited by her daughter since Easter. Its not because the daughter isn’t available – Mary Barnette is always available to her mom and anxious to see her again. And its not because the Kountze Nursing Home and long-term care facilities all around Southeast Texas wouldn’t LIKE to make that happen.

Iris can’t see any loved ones except through a paned glass on occasion because of COVID19 safety restrictions at nursing homes.

Now, many are coming forward saying social contact is crucial for the often-ailing nursing home residents, and that visitations MUST be restored – as long as safety precautions are also balanced.

Hardin County Judge Wayne McDaniel tells 1813News he would support an order from Austin that would give families the chance to see loved ones again.

“I am hopeful that the Governor is also working on guidance for all long-term care facilities to develop protocols so that a sanitary visitation room can be made available for families very soon,” McDaniel told 1813News.

Long-term care facilities have already taken steps to insure the safety of employees. McDaniel told us, “I am pleased to see that Governor Abbott has directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Dept. of State Health Services to test 100% of residents and staff in Texas nursing homes… I have offered to help with testing of the facilities in Hardin County. These are our most vulnerable residents and we do not want to lose them.”

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick is equally concerned about the residents and tells 1813News, “I would support family being able to visit with their relatives in nursing homes in a sanitized environment provided that everyone was properly screened.”

Orange County Judge John Gothia was not immediately available for comment.

Medical professionals from several disciplines have already argued that there is simply no reason a patio area or “safe room” could not be set up at just about ANY long-term care facility.

“The damaging effects of social isolation will be more damaging and lasting than this virus and the hype of it,” said Signature Health Services Vice President Karie Spell.

Spell believes at some point many Texans will actually begin seeking legal counsel to force visitations with family. She called the visits a “right” and told us, “If any facility is saying no (to opening up safe rooms) then those residents are being imprisoned.”

And Spell accepts as fact that long-term care residents are now failing because of a lack of human interraction – and will continue to fail even more so.

Governor Abbott acted within hours to publicy state his positions on the jailing of a non-compliant hair salon owner and clarified his previous order resulting in the incarceration of Shelley Luther (the hair salon owner) in about 24 hours. Many believe Abbott could act QUICKLY on visitation rooms at long-term care facilities as well.

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