A resident and a worker watch as 150 nursing union members show support at rchard Villa Long-Term Care in Pickering, Ontario on Monday June 1, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Ontario clarified visitor rules for long-term care homes on Wednesday, saying the updated guidelines will even the playing field so families and caregivers across the province have greater access to residents.

The new guidelines, which come into effect Sept. 9, are meant to improve upon the current rules, which the Ministry of Long-Term Care notes have been applied inconsistently, as their application was left up to the discretion of individual facilities.

"Today's announcement will ensure that guidelines on (caregivers') visits are applied consistently across homes so that all rssidents get the support they deserve," Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said in a written statement.

Under the new rules, essential caregivers will be allowed to visit homes, including during COVID-19 outbreaks, subject to direction from the local health unit.

The updated policy will mean a resident can designate two caregivers who can visit without time limits.

If a home is not in outbreak, or the resident is not symptomatic or self-isolating, the caregivers can visit together.

Since March, essential visitors such as family members have technically been allowed to visit homes to help provide care to a long-term care resident, but the government notes that not everyone was afforded that opportunity because visits were left up to the discretion of each home.

The inconsistency has for months drawn the ire of families and advocates, sparking at least one human rights complaint.

They argued that family members are a key part of a long-term care resident's caregiving team, helping with everything from feeding to bathing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2020.