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London, Ont. hospitals update visitor policies amid surge in COVID-19 cases

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St. Joseph’s Health Care London and London Health Sciences Centre are implementing changes to visitor policies in response to the presence of the Omicron variant in the community and a surge of COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported its highest-ever daily case count since the onset of the pandemic, with 228 cases.

That afternoon, St. Joseph’s Health Care London announced changes to its visitor policy.

The first change came into effect on Dec. 15. It requires general visitors aged five and older wishing to visit indoors with residents and veteran populations at Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care, or within the Veterans Care Program at Parkwood Institute to show proof of vaccination. Essential caregivers must provide proof of having a first dose by Dec. 20 and a second dose by Feb. 21.

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A second round of changes will be enforced as of Dec. 30, requiring all essential caregivers and visitors to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and show a government-issued photo ID before entering any of the hospital’s facilities.

Officials say anyone with a valid medical exemption will be required to provide acceptable proof and follow additional safety precautions while on St. Joseph’s sites.

Essential caregivers and visitors deemed necessary for enabling care, quality of life or safety concerns or for compassionate circumstances will be allowed to enter but must follow all infection control protocols.

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On Tuesday, the London Health Sciences Centre announced slight changes to its policy, limiting the number of visitors for each patient. Those changes came into effect Wednesday.

LHSC said social visits are not allowed at this time. Patients will be asked to identify their “care partners” before appointments or on admission and all care partners will be asked to provide proof of vaccination. Some exceptions will be made for essential care partners in particular circumstances, for example, if the patient is experiencing a mental health crisis or is about to give birth.

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Care partners determined “nonessential”  are asked to limit visits to between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. and must provide proof of vaccination.

Full details, including a flow chart to help identify which care partners are considered essential, can be found on LHSC’s website.

Both St. Joseph’s and LHSC stress that the policies do not apply to patients and that patients are encouraged to seek hospital care when needed.

with files from Global News’ Jess Brady

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