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Residents 'overjoyed' as Caithness care homes get new visiting suites


By Alan Hendry

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Seaview House resident Willie Cuthbertson and activities co-ordinator Mandy Wilson demonstrating the new visiting suite.
Seaview House resident Willie Cuthbertson and activities co-ordinator Mandy Wilson demonstrating the new visiting suite.

Two Caithness care homes have each created a visiting suite that will allow residents to spend time with their loved ones indoors while complying with all the Covid-19 guidance.

It means residents at Seaview House in Wick and Pentland View in Thurso can see their friends and family at close quarters through a Perspex divider while chatting on an intercom system in a warm and comfortable setting. Access for visitors in each case is from an external door only, so there is no physical contact.

Both homes are run by Barchester Healthcare.

The Seaview House suite was given a trial run last week and residents are "overjoyed" with it, according to Wendy McGowan, senior general manager at the home in Broadhaven Road.

She says that with the weather turning colder it is a welcome alternative to the outdoor visiting of the past few months which has meant residents sitting under a gazebo, using masks and observing social distancing.

"This is so much better," Mrs McGowan said. "When we did the trial run there was a big thumbs-up. We're delighted.

"The visiting suite has been designed with comfort and safety in mind, and has been adapted from a room which is accessible internally by residents and externally by visitors.

"We had a first trial run on Thursday. We had a relative come in to do a visit with their family member and they said it worked amazingly.

"They don't have to maintain a two-metre distance because it's a fully sealed unit and the visitor doesn't need to wear a mask – so they can get nice and close together. There's an intercom system that works between the two so that the sound carries really well.

"There is no internal door to it – you can only access it from outside the building. It was wonderful to see how happy it made the residents and their relatives in a warm and cosy environment.

"Balancing resident wellbeing and safety is at the forefront of Barchester Healthcare’s thinking and we understand how important it is for residents and their family and friends to be able to spend time together in the safest way possible.

Resident Willie Cuthbertson and activities co-ordinator Mandy Wilson in the new visiting suite at Seaview House.
Resident Willie Cuthbertson and activities co-ordinator Mandy Wilson in the new visiting suite at Seaview House.

"As we enter the colder season it means catch-ups can continue to take place, instead of, or in addition to, outdoor visiting already offered for those who are able.

"Infection control protocols are in place for every visit, including a hand-sanitiser station before entry. Cleaning will take place after each visit to ensure chairs, seats, hard surfaces including windowsills and the Perspex glass divider are wiped down appropriately."

Mrs McGowan added: "Barchester has been organising this for a month or two and got a company in Aberdeen to do all the Highland homes. It took a day to install each unit."

The visiting suite in Pentland View at Burnside, Thurso, has been equally well received.

The home's general manager Morag Lindsay said: "The residents all thought it was a good idea and it's very positive.

"Visitors don't have to come into the home at all. They go round through the garden and they do all their checks before coming in and using the intercom system.

"Everybody is nice and warm, they don't need to wear masks, and it is fully sanitised after one family goes and before the next family comes in."

Barchester hopes to allow visits again as normal once it is safe to do so following government guidance.

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