The ban - introduced earlier this month due to staffing issues and the spread of the Omicron COVID variant - had effectively banned all visits to facilities housing patients across the trust area, with only visits in specific and exceptional circumstances permitted.
The Trust cautioned that there remains a continued high level of COVID-19 transmission in the community but said it understands “the significant importance that visiting patients in our hospitals provides”.
“Therefore, from 6pm on Monday 17 January, there will be an initial easing of temporary visiting restrictions, across our hospital sites and facilities, which will now allow for one visit per week per patient.
The new rules will be:
*One Visitor (from two nominees) is permitted to visit for one hour, once per week.
*The visiting week referred to will run from Monday 17 January (after 6pm) to Sunday 23 January 2022.
*The Trust said they “strongly encourage and strongly advise that anyone attending any of our facilities for visiting a loved one, to take a lateral flow test prior to attending”.
*All infection and prevention control measures must be adhered to when attending any Western Trust hospital or facility and this includes wearing a facemask at all times.
*Based on Covid-19 risk assessments, it is important to note that some areas in our hospitals or facilities may be temporarily subject to not allowing any visits to occur, eg. where there is presently a Covid-19 outbreak. Prior to attending the hospital or facility it is recommended that you check with the Ward Manager for where you hope to visit.
*Depending on the continued high level of COVID-19 transmission in the community, all temporary measures are subject to review.
*A review of the temporary Visiting Guidance Restrictions will take place again on Monday 24 January 2022.
In addition, there will also continue to be exceptional circumstances where visiting on a more regular basis is permitted.
Furthermore, these temporary visiting restrictions do not apply to birthing partners attending appointments to maternity services and full details of maternity arrangements are on the Trust Website.
“We would encourage you to keep in contact with your loved ones via Virtual Visiting arrangements,” the spokesperson said. “You can continue to arrange a ‘virtual visit’ with your relative or friend on a smartphone or tablet. Our hospitals have access to free Wi-Fi and our staff can help set this up. Please be patient as there continues to be significant staffing pressures at present and our staff will have to prioritise clinical work and patient care at this very busy time.
“The Trust acknowledges that this is a very difficult time for everyone but we continue to act in your best interest and the best interest of your relative/friend in hospital. We ask that you continue to work with us and please respect our staff and the guidance they give you at all times. There have been incidents where our staff have received verbal abuse and harassment and we would ask everyone to please refrain from such behaviour and remind everyone that we operate a zero tolerance policy towards abuse across our Trust.
“We would like to thank the public for their cooperation in relation to these essential recent changes to our visiting arrangements. Your support helps us to provide safer care for your relatives and friends who are currently in hospital.”
Updated Visiting Guidance and specific information is provided on the Western Trust Website specific page at westerntrust.hscni.net/western-trust-covid-19-information-updates/western-trust-covid19-visiting-guidance/