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Move to Step 3 sees Health Sciences North loosen visitor restrictions

Easier visiting for in-patients and end-of-life situations, though masking rules are still in effect
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Health Sciences North. (File)

Hospital visiting restrictions that have been in place for several months at Health Sciences North in Sudbury are being eased somewhat by the fact that Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening took effect on July 16.

The changes were outlined on HSN's patient and visitor information website, said HSN communications specialist Jason Turnbull.

Among the changes are those for in-patients — that is, those requiring an overnight stay. HSN said Designated Care Partners and additional visitors will be allowed. However, only two people are permitted at the bedside at the same time, said HSN. 

The only exception for in-patients are those deemed COVID-19 probable or positive. In that case, no in-person visits will be allowed. This would mean no change from the previous restrictions. 

HSN said Designated Care Partners (DCPs) are more than visitors. They are crucial members of the care team and provide essential physical, emotional, social spiritual support and are defined as family members or other persons of significance in the life of the patient. The designated care partner will be identified by the patient or through discussion between the healthcare team and family.

Changes are also in place for end-of-life care situations.  Previously, two DCPs were permitted at the same time. Under the new changes for End of Life Care, the hospital said DCPs and additional visitors are now allowed, but only two people are permitted at bedside at the same time. Further to that, during planned withdrawal of life support or the expected last 24 hours of life, more visitors may be allowed at the bedside as arranged with the care team to accommodate where space allows, said HSN.

Changes are also in place now for patients giving birth. Formerly, only one DCP was allowed. Under the new changes, two DCPs are allowed. HSN also said that the exception remains to allow both intended parents to visit, in the case that a surrogate birth has taken place.

Turnbull said there are situations where things have not changed. He said these include:

  • Pediatric Patients under 18 years remains two Designated Care Partners and both may visit at the same time.
  • Emergency Department patients remains as one Designated Care Partner with additional allowances for special circumstances. More information on this is provided on the HSN website.
  • All other Outpatient settings remain as no in-person visitors, with allowances for one Designated Care Partner in special circumstances, such as patients with communication, physical or cognitive impairments, patients experiencing a mental health crisis, and patients requiring a care partner to be involved with significant care decisions, disclosure of potentially traumatic test results/prognosis.

Masking is still an essential requirement for all visitors. HSN said handmade masks are not acceptable. When you arrive at the hospital as a patient or care partner, a hospital approved mask will be provided to you and you will be expected to wear it during your time at HSN. Patients going for a procedure where they must remove the mask will be asked to keep it ready to be put back on once the procedure is completed, said the HSN visitor page.

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.



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About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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