After four months with a no-visitor policy, Hamilton hospitals say they have begun a “staged and gradual approach” to allowing family members and caregivers back into their facilities.
In a joint release on Wednesday morning, both St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) outlined changes permitting a limited number of visitors for inpatients as of Wednesday.
“The changes being implemented this week acknowledge the important role that family members and care partners have in supporting the wellbeing of patients. The changes are also balanced with the need to keep everyone in our hospitals safe,” the two hospitals said in a statement.
St. Joe’s is allowing one family member or care partner to visit an inpatient area between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every other day. Patients can only designate two different people as visitors.
Arrangements can be made to allow a support worker to accompany a visitor with advance notice.
Visitors will not be allowed into the emergency department, psychiatric emergency service, urgent care centre and outpatient clinics.
Meanwhile, HHS says it will allow one family member or caregiver at a bedside at any given time with up to two different family members/caregivers allowed for alternating visits on designated days.
Visiting hours are 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with family members/caregivers having to go through coronavirus screenings before entering. The visitor is also required to wear a mask and is restricted to the patient’s room for the duration of their stay.
Food can be purchased from the hospital’s cafeteria, and food can also be brought into the facility as long as it’s individually packaged and not shared. All food must be consumed in a patient’s room and leftovers must be discarded after the visit.
Both hospitals have exceptions where additional family members/caregivers can be present for women in labour, end-of-life care and when special support is needed.
Visitors are also asked to use public washrooms and not patient washrooms.
Ambulatory care patients are not permitted to have a family member/caregiver accompany them at present. Exceptions include cancer outpatients, some youth mental health patients, in addition to obstetrical ultrasound and diagnostic imaging requiring sedation.
Local hospitals preparing for service reintegration
The two hospitals are also a part of an initiative with some southern Ontario hospitals to develop gradual resumption of scheduled procedures and outpatient services.
Plans are underway following the release of a program by Ontario Health to begin a gradual restart of deferred and elective services approved by a number of local public health units.
Nine different hospitals say the program will be prioritized on the basis of acuity and need of each patient with teams continuing the use of virtual care technology where possible in addition to onsite services.
“Across our region, hospitals are working together to coordinate our approach for the gradual resumption of services and to collaborate with health and community partners to optimize our shared capacity,” Rob MacIsaac, president and CEO of Hamilton Health Sciences, said in a statement.
Most Ontario hospitals suspended elective services amid safety concerns and the reallocation of bed space during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both SJHH and HHS say the move was also made in light of a shortage in PPE and staffing, as well as drugs required for surgeries.
Hamilton reported five new coronavirus cases on June 23, putting the city’s overall number of cases at 807 with 798 confirmed and nine probable, according to public health.
The city has 16 COVID-19 patients in hospitals: 14 with HHS and two with St. Joe’s.
To date, 719 of the city’s known COVID-19 cases — 89 per cent — have been resolved.
Forty-three people with COVID-19 have died during the pandemic.
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