Why Canadian hospitals are getting rid of visitor hours

WATCH ABOVE: Kingston General Hospital leading the way with open visiting hours 24/7. Global’s Minna Rhee reports.

TORONTO – You’re sitting next to your loved one in hospital, holding his or her hand while they rest, but then you’re told that visiting hours are up and you need to leave.

Canadian health officials know it’s distressing. Now, a number of hospitals across the country are getting rid of visiting hours so that patients’ family members can stay with them around the clock.

“It’s that human touch – to let your loved one know they’re not alone – that you will always be there,” Charity Gable told Global News.

Her husband has leukemia and she makes sure to stay by his side. She doesn’t have to watch the clock either, because Ontario’s Kingston General Hospital has done away with visiting hours.

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It used to be the norm for families to get kicked out at 8 p.m. The push to get rid of prescribed visiting hours has been spreading across Canada and the United States over the past six years.

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“If a family member wants to spend the night, we do everything we can. We have cots, we have comfortable chairs, we try and accommodate within the realities of the space that we actually have,” Leslee Thompson, president and CEO of Kingston General Hospital, said.

Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, suggests that Canada is just playing catch up to its southern counterpart.

In the U.S., these policies are already in place but we’re ahead of the curve next to Latin and Central America or the Middle East, she said.

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“It’s good that the hospitals in Canada are taking a little effort on that because it’s not something that is prevalent in most of the world,” she said.

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The only issue is ensuring that the patient’s preference comes first. Maybe he or she wants three friends at his or her side, or maybe the patient needs a couple of hours of silence, for example.

Overall, Grinspun suggests the benefits will even extend to nurses, doctors and other frontline health care workers.

“If patients are more satisfied that will translate to the close relationship that patients have with nurses, doctors and others. In addition to the niceness of that, and the warmth of that, that it feels good, that it’s the right thing, I also think that this will lead to faster healing,” she explained.

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With family spending more time with the patients, they may pick up practical skills that will come in handy when their loved one is discharged.

Gable, for example, is already learning firsthand how to bathe her husband, change his bed, help him with his physiotherapy exercises.

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“I sleep, shower, everything. This is my home away from home right now,” she said.

But it’s worthwhile for the wife.

“Even if he’s just sleeping, it’s quality time spent.”

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