Through months of visitor restrictions, Veronica Bergl did what she could to stay connected with her granddaughter, Lisa Bergl. They connected online, screen visits replacing their regular get-togethers at Providence Healthcare, where Veronica is a resident in the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence. When Lisa announced her pregnancy, they celebrated together, marking the last time Veronica and Lisa saw each other in person. Later, Veronica saw baby Matilda hit some of her milestones through photos, and over Zoom. 

Then, earlier in June, after Providence began allowing outdoor visits with essential visitors, Veronica met 11-month-old Matilda face to face for the very first time.

“We were so happy that we had the opportunity for my grandmother to meet Matilda before she gets bigger,” Lisa said.

With guidelines from Toronto Region, Providence entered the first step in a new plan to welcome essential visitors back onsite and began scheduling outdoor visits for patients in June.

To support these outdoor visits, Providence staff have set up tents with designated areas for families to gather both at the front of the main hospital and outside of the Houses of Providence entrance. The well-shaded spaces (pictured above) are equipped for multiple families to visit their loved ones while maintaining physical distancing.

For some families, it has been months since they have met face to face with their family members and loved ones. While virtual visiting has helped bridge the gap and bring some comfort, a screen can’t replace the experience of seeing someone in person.

“We’re so thankful that we can use Zoom and Skype to stay connected, but those face-to-face visits mean so much more,” said Lisa.

Gareth Evans, a patient at Providence Healthcare, visited with his daughter Sian Evans, son Ceri Evans, daughter-in-law Michele Curtis and grandson Owain Evans last month. He hadn’t seen some of his loved ones since December. Along with the visit, Gareth received something else he had been wanting for a while.

“My wife Michele cuts my hair, so when my dad saw that she didn’t do a bad job, he asked me to get her to do his. He had been looking forward to the haircut for weeks,” Ceri said. (Shown above, Gareth gets a glimpse of his new look while Sian holds a mirror).  

“Such a simple thing as having a haircut means a lot to my dad because he takes some pride in his appearance. For someone who has been confined to a hospital room or a long-term care home, not having a haircut in over six months doesn’t make it any easier for them,” said Ceri. “It was great for all of us to be able to reunite again. We had another outdoor visit on Father’s Day. We want to schedule as many of these as we can.”

Family members and loved ones play a significant role in the healing and overall well-being of patients. As the province begins its phased approach to reopening, Providence will continue to facilitate outdoor visits for rehabilitation, complex continuing care and palliative patients.

“I’m glad that we’re in a position now where we’re able to have outdoor visits like this,” Lisa said. “Hopefully we’ll get to a place soon where we feel safe enough to hold hands. I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity to do that with my grandmother.”