General Visiting Guideline

We are working as hard as we can to get to a place where we can increase access to care partners. We’ve seen progress in the community, but are still experiencing challenges in the hospital; we continue to deal with a number of outbreaks in care areas and are seeing a high volume of patients that test positive for COVID-19 when they arrive for care.

We want to ensure that patients and staff are protected so that we can continue to provide care and resume the surgeries and procedures that have been put on hold.

March 2, 2022: Each patient will be invited to choose two designated Care Partners that can visit them. Only one designated Care Partner may visit per day for 1-2 hours. We hope to continue to keep increasing access to visiting.

We understand that this is stressful for patients and families, and ask for your patience for a little longer as we get to a better place. We are monitoring the situation continually, and will make the necessary adjustments to our care partner guidelines when it is safe for our patients and staff.

As of March 2, 2022, our Care Partner guidelines have been updated:

  • Inpatients may choose two designated Care Partners who can visit them. Only one designated Care Partner may visit per day for 1-2 hours.
  • There will be no change to Care Partners access in the Emergency Department at this time.
  • Some programs may have different visiting guidelines due to their patient’s needs and care (e.g. children’s, childbirth and within 72 hours of end of life).
  • Exceptions to the above will be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis by the manager of the area that is providing care.

Care Partners of patients who receive care in outpatient clinics will be able to join appointments virtually at this time. For patients that require additional support due to decreased cognition, or limited physical abilities, one essential Care Partner may be able to join patients in hospital with prior approval from the manager of the area where the patient is receiving care. All other protocols will remain in place (unless a pre-approved exemption is already in place).

Care Partners must:

  • Be identified and approved by the patient as a Care Partner;
  • Review a care partner visiting agreement. This agreement outlines steps care partners must follow for the safety and wellness of all (masking, physical distancing, full vaccination);
  • Pass COVID screening;
  • Show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at the entrance to visit or accompany a patient in hospital. To be considered exempt from our vaccination guidelines, please speak with the manager of the area providing care about your situation before coming to the hospital. Exemptions are approved on a case-by-case basis;
  • Be allowed to visit, for up to 2 hours, each day unless there are exceptional circumstances. See below for more information about exemptions to the number of Care Partners allowed in the building;
  • Check in with the patient's care team before visiting to ensure the patient is currently able to have visitors. You may have to arrange an appointment time to visit, depending on the patient's care needs; and
  • Be patient with and kind to our staff, we are doing our best to support visiting as quickly as possible AND keep patients and staff safe. Abuse will not be tolerated and may result in visiting privileges being revoked.

Care Partner outdoor visiting guidelines

Now that the weather is getting warmer, we understand that you may want to visit with your loved one outdoors.

If you are an approved Care Partner, and choose to visit with a patient outside of the hospital, please ensure that you follow the same Care Partner guidelines as above. Do not visit outdoors if you are feeling unwell, have tested positive, are awaiting COVID test results or have been exposed to COVID-19 within the last 10 days.

As a reminder, smoking is not permitted on hospital property.

Exceptions: We recognize that each patient’s circumstance and needs are different and may allow for exemptions to our guidelines. Exemptions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the manager of the area where the patient is receiving care. For more information about this, please review the information included below, or call 519-742-3611 and ask to speak to the manager of your loved one’s care area to discuss. We continue to look at ways to safely expand visiting.

Care Partner Handout

Exceptions to the general guideline

Exceptions for patients coming to ambulatory (outpatient) clinic appointments:

To protect our patients as much as possible, we need to maintain physical distancing. In many outpatient areas, we have smaller waiting rooms, which make physical distancing a challenge: we do not always have space for Care Partners to join patients safely. Below are areas that are able to support Care Partners in certain circumstances:

· Medical Imaging: Patients under 18 and patients that require physical assistance (i.e. getting to their appointment, using the bathroom, etc.) may bring one Care Partner. Please call the department at 519-749-4262 in advance of your appointment to make these arrangements of if you have questions.

· Emergency Department: All patients are allowed to bring one Care Partner to accompany them in triage. Due to available space, Care Partners will not be able to accompany patients being treated in the emergency department’s ambulatory area (for non-urgent needs).

· Children’s Outpatient Clinics: Children may be accompanied by one Care Partner (e.g. parent or guardian).

· Inpatient Children's Programs (including Neonatal Intensive Care Unit): Two care partners/parents can be present together at the baby’s bedside during the day but only one can stay overnight (Based on availability for NICU, as we have a limited number of sleep rooms).

· Pre-surgical clinic: Please call the hospital at 519-742-3611 and ask to speak to the pre-surgical clinic manager to request a Care Partner for your visit to the pre-surgical clinic.

· Day surgery: Patients under 18 may bring one Care Partner (parent or guardian). All other patients may not bring a Care Partner, unless there are exceptional circumstances. If you believe your case is an exceptional circumstance, please call the hospital at 519-742-3611 and ask to speak to the day surgery clinic manager to discuss. While the patient is in surgery, Care Partners will be asked to wait outside of the hospital.

Exceptions for Care Partners of patients coming to the Childbirth Program

· Patients will receive care regardless of their vaccination status.

· Childbirth patients may identify two Care Partners to support them during labour, birth and postpartum.

· After the baby is born, only one Care Partner will be allowed to stay overnight.

· During obstetric triage visits, Care Partners will be invited to wait in the family waiting area until the care team has completed their assessments and the patient is admitted to a room.

· Only one Care Partner may accompany the patient for outpatient visits. This includes obstetric appointments and newborn appointments (only one parent may accompany the baby).

· If the patient is suspected of having COVID-19 or is COVID positive, their Care Partner must remain in the room with the patient in isolation. Meals will be provided.

Please note that midwives are registered health care professionals. You do not need to designate your midwife as a ‘Care Partner’; they will be able to join you in hospital just like the rest of our GRH childbirth team. Doulas, however, are unregistered support people. If you wish to have a doula, they must be chosen as your ‘Care Partner’.

Exceptions for COVID-19 positive or COVID-19 suspect patients, and for patients on any unit that is currently in COVID-19 outbreak

Patients who have COVID-19, or are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test cannot have in-person visits, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

We do not allow in-person visits on units that have a current COVID outbreak, for the safety of patients and care partners. If you believe you are an exceptional circumstance, please call 519-742-3611 and ask to speak with the manager of the unit where your loved one is receiving care

Other exceptions, including accommodating Care Partners that are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19

We know that not every case is the same. In some cases, patients receive more visits, or visit with more than one Care Partner at a time care, or Care Partners that are not fully vaccinated may be approved to visit. “Exceptional circumstances” generally include:

· Patients near end of life, or at high risk of last possible meaningful interaction;

· Patients who are critically ill, or receiving palliative care or receiving a potentially traumatic test result/prognosis;

· Patients experiencing a mental health crisis; and/or

· Individuals providing care to a patient who would be at risk if the personal care provider or care partner were not available. This includes infants, children and adults/seniors with dependencies of some kind (such as communication, physical or cognitive impairments). “At risk” includes but is not limited to the potential for physical/psychological harm, delayed recovery, further decline, prolonged hospitalization and compromised treatment decision-making and care planning.

If you feel your case warrants an exemption from our Care Partner guidelines, please call 519-742-3611 and ask to speak with the manager of the area where your loved one is receiving care.

Virtual visiting

In situations where an in-person Care Partner visit is not possible, our staff can support patients and families to connect virtually and/or by telephone.

GRH offers free wireless internet (“GrandServe – Free patient Wifi”) inside the hospital to support virtual visiting.

Patients are encouraged to have their mobile phones with them. We have a limited number of bedside phones available which are reserved for patients who do not have access to a mobile phone.

Please speak to your loved one's care team for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do Care Partners need to be vaccinated?

Many of our patients are immunocompromised. In addition to mandating vaccines for our staff, our Care Partner vaccine guidelines limit the opportunity of exposure in our buildings and support our focus on protecting staff, patients and our community from COVID-19. This aligns with our staff vaccine policy; both are extremely important to protect our patients and team members.

What can I expect when I come to for my approved, scheduled, care partner visit?

You will be screened for symptoms when you arrive and asked to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination (unless you are approved as an exemption), and government issued photo identification. Staff will ask you to sanitize your hands and provide you with a mask to wear. Outside masks are permitted (N95 or other), as long as a hospital-issued mask is worn over top. You must wear a hospital-issued mask at ALL times while in the hospital. At this time, we do not allow visitors to eat at the bedside with the patient they are visiting or bring food into the hospital. We also ask that you stay in the patient's room for the duration of your visit, unless you have been provided with special permission to leave the unit. All of these precautions are to reduce the spread of illness to others.

What are acceptable pieces of ID?

Acceptable forms of identification must include name and date of birth:

· Birth certificate.

· Citizenship card.

· Driver's licence.

· Government (Ontario or other) issued identification card, including health card.

· Indian status card /Indigenous membership card.

· Passport.

· Permanent resident card.

Will I need to show proof of vaccination and ID each time I visit the hospital?

Yes, proof of vaccination and ID is required each time you visit the hospital. This ensures we can accurately monitor our care partner vaccine guideline compliance as we continue to focus on protecting our patients, staff and the community.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Vaccine locations are available at regionofwaterloo.ca. You can also call your local pharmacy to book an appointment.

How can I download my proof of vaccination?

You can download or print your personal vaccination QR code at ontario.ca/proofofvaccination.

Why are you allowing unvaccinated patients come into the hospital if an unvaccinated care partner cannot?

Patients don’t have a choice in coming to the hospital; if they require care, we will provide care, regardless of their vaccination status. However, care partners do not require care and do not need to be in the hospital. We are asking that they be vaccinated as a requirement to access the hospital site.

I don’t plan to get vaccinated, does this mean I can’t visit as a care partner?

There will be exceptions to our care partner vaccination guidance. If you have any questions about your specific situation, please reach out to the manager of the area where your loved one is, or will receive care.

Can I just be tested at the door? Why or why not?

We are focusing on devoting our staff resources to providing and supporting patient care as much as possible. We will not have the resources to offer COVID-19 tests at the entrance.

I am not vaccinated but have been approved to visit as an exception. Why do I need someone to accompany me to my loved one for a visit?

Exposure to others increases the risk of the spread of illness. To limit exposure as much as possible, care partners that are not vaccinated but approved to visit as an exception to the guidance will be – where possible - taken directly to their loved one’s room/designated visit space.

What about my child, who is too young to be vaccinated?

Our current care partner vaccination guidance will not apply to children in this age group.

If they change the age groups for vaccinations, will my child need to be vaccinated?

As the vaccine is released to additional age groups, we will review the guidance provided and update it if necessary.

Does this guidance only apply to care partners? What about staff and doctors?

As of October 12, all staff, physicians, students, volunteers and contractors working at and with GRH were required to be vaccinated. You can read more about our vaccine mandate on at grhosp.on.ca/news.

I only have one dose of the vaccine, will I be allowed in?

No, unless approved as an exceptional circumstance, care partners must be fully vaccinated.

Who can I contact about this change?

If you would like to provide feedback about the process, please contact our patient relations team at patient.feedback@grhosp.on.ca or 519-749-4300, ext. 2966.

How can I request an exception to this process?

If you would like to be considered as an exception, please call the hospital at 519-749-4300, ext. 0 and ask to be connected to the manager of the program where your loved one is receiving care.

Are any programs exempt from this? For example, an unvaccinated spouse being present for the birth of their child?

We’ve always allowed for exceptions under exceptional circumstances. We know in most cases, these occasions occur at the beginning of life, the end of life, for the most serious of illness and injury, and when a patient isn’t cognitively or developmentally able to advocate for themselves. Exemption decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. To discuss your situation, please speak with the manager where your loved one is, or will receive care.

What are my options if I’m unvaccinated?

If you would like to be considered as an exception, please call the hospital at 519-749-4300, ext. 0 and ask to be connected to the manager of the program where your loved one is receiving care to discuss your case.

Alternatively, you and/or the patient can identify another care partner to support their care provided they are fully vaccinated.

Find a list of clinics that are providing the vaccine and book your appointment at regionofwaterloo.ca.