SUDBURY -- For five months, family members have not been able to visit their loved ones at long-term care home facilities because of the novel coronavirus.

Joanne MacNeil, from Sudbury, is one of them. 

Her mother has been at Extendicare Falconbridge for three years and MacNeil says window visits are not enough. 

"I’ve realized during COVID, not seeing her, that she’s declined. And I’ve seen her on FaceTime, so I finally asked, 'how much does she weigh?' And that’s when I realized she’s lost 40 pounds," said MacNeil. 

She said she has been trying to get into the facility for quite some time but is not allowed. 

Billie-Jo Henry said her father has also been at Extendicare Falconbridge for three years also, and every time she has a window visit or FaceTime call, her father cries and does not understand why his daughter is not allowed inside. 

"He wants chocolate because he sees me and he wants me to give him chocolate, which I can’t feed through the window. He wants to pet the dog, which he can’t do through the window. He cries, and says 'please help me.' He tells me he’s sorry for whatever he’s done, 'can I please do something,' and I say 'Dad, I can’t,' said Henry. 

The Nurses’ Association of Ontario says it believes if families would have been allowed to visit their loved ones during this pandemic, there would have been fewer deaths in long-term care homes. 

"Of course, staff try their best, but when you are short-staffed, which going into the pandemic we were already short-staffed, and then you leave the families out of the home, then, of course, it’s a recipe for disaster," said Doris Grinspun, C.E.O of The Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Extendicare Falconbridge says it will be ready to allow family members to visit as of Wednesday, but when people do come for a visit, they will have to follow the rules:

  • Pre-scheduled 30-minute visits only
  • Screening questionnaire
  • Visitors must verbally attest they do not have COVID-19
  • Proof of testing is no longer required for outdoor visits
  • Masks to be worn at all times

Both Henry and MacNeil say they are counting down the days until they can get inside and hug their parents again.