Coronavirus Information for Patients and Families

Updated March 23, 2020

important updates for patients and visitors

As of March 21 at 9 p.m., Unity Health has joined other Ontario hospitals in moving to a no family/support person presence (patient visitor) policy with exceptions on compassionate grounds and other special safety needs. This change is being made in light of emerging COVID-19 community transmission and recommendations from the Ministry of Health. This difficult decision was made out of necessity to slow the spread of the virus and follow social distancing practices.

Can I have a family/support person with me while I am in hospital?
No, we are not allowing family/support persons (visitors) in the hospital at this time to keep our patients, families, staff and physicians safe.

A leader from the hospital may approve (in advance) a dedicated family/support person (visitor) for a patient in a special situation such as:

  • End of life patients (including palliative, critical care and Emergency Department)
  • Patients under the age of 16 – limited to one designated parent or guardian
  • Women giving birth – limited to one partner or coach
  • Patients who lack capacity to consent to treatment and for whom other means of communication with their substitute decision maker have failed
  • Patients who require support to access critical ambulatory services (i.e. day oncology, dialysis, medical imaging)

Important: Any family/support persons (visitors) allowed in a special situation must pass the screening criteria before they are allowed in the hospital. This means they cannot have any symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath; and they cannot have traveled outside of Canada in the last 14 days.

We are actively screening for potential risk of COVID-19 with everyone who comes to our sites to ensure the safety and well-being of our people and patients. Please allow for extra time if you are coming to the hospital.

You will be required to enter and exit the building through the doors listed below. All other doors will be locked. We appreciate your help in protecting the health and well-being of our patients and our people.

In order to reduce the number of people in the hospital during the evolving COVID-19 situation, we are encouraging our health care providers to have virtual visits with their patients where possible, and to cancel any non-urgent visits.

If you have an upcoming appointment and are feeling unwell, please call your health-care provider ahead of your visit.

If you have any questions about your upcoming appointment or procedure, please contact your health-care provider’s office directly.

COVID-19 Assessment Centres at St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s


We have opened two COVID-19 Assessment Centres: one at our St. Michael’s site and one at our St. Joseph’s site. 
These Assessment Centres are equipped with proper precautions such as hand hygiene stations and isolated spaces for those who are being assessed for COVID-19. 

St. Michael’s Hospital
Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, 38 Shuter St. 1st floor

Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

St. Joseph’s Health Centre
Sunnyside Building, 1st floor – enter through the Sunnyside Avenue entrance

Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., last patient to be registered at 8:30 p.m.

The goal of the assessment centres is to provide comprehensive screening, assessment and testing for mildly symptomatic members of the public who either self-present or are referred for assessment by Toronto Public Health. Those who are determined to require self-isolation will also be provided instructions and support materials. 

These spaces will be exclusively reserved for assessing anyone who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Assessment Centres will help manage flow and reduce pressure in our Emergency Department. 

In alignment with new Toronto Region COVID-19 Hospital Operations group guidelines, COVID-19 Assessment Centres will now focus on symptoms, and testing in the assessment centres will be limited to those who have mild symptoms and are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 to large groups of people, including:

  • Those who work in at-risk settings (i.e. hospitals, long-term care)
  • Those who reside in vulnerable settings (i.e. homeless, prison, retirement home)
  • Those who have been sent by Toronto Public Health (i.e. from areas with active cluster outbreaks)

Everyone else, including those with mild symptoms who have returned from travel, does not need testing unless they get sick enough to go to the Emergency Department.

Our aim with this approach of testing is to have a more measured, targeted use of existing resources and to limit exposure in testing centres to those who are medically frail or immunocompromised.

We will screen children who fall under the guidelines. For example, if a child presents to the assessment centre with mild symptoms of COVID-19 and they live in a vulnerable setting, they will be tested at the assessment centre.

Those who arrive at our assessment centres but do not match the guidelines from the Toronto Region COVID-19 Hospital Operations group (i.e. they do not work in at-risk settings, live in vulnerable settings or have been referred by Toronto Public Health) will be asked to either return home and self-isolate or go to the Emergency Department if their symptoms are severe.

Both the St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s assessment centres are located outside of the main hospital buildings. We are keeping everyone safe while operating these assessment centres – there are proper precautions in place such as hand hygiene stations and isolated spaces for those who are being assessed for COVID-19.

Outpatients will continue to access the St. Joseph’s Sunnyside building, and we have put rigorous hygiene practices in place to protect all those who enter the building. 

Please do not bring visitors into the assessment centre unless needed because the person being screened requires assistance or is a minor. This will help reduce traffic in these spaces.

Everyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 and fits the guidelines from the Toronto Region COVID-19 Hospital Operations group (i.e. work in at-risk settings, live in vulnerable settings or have been referred by Toronto Public Health) can be screened in our assessment centres at no cost.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about COVID-19

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Some human coronaviruses spread easily between people, while others do not.

On Dec. 31, 2019, Chinese health authorities identified a new (or novel) coronavirus (referred to as COVID-19) through a series of reported cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China.

Symptoms of the novel coronavirus that has been detected in Wuhan, China have included:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

If you are concerned about your symptoms and/or worried about potential exposure to COVID-19, we encourage you to take the Ministry of Health’s self-assessment to determine if you need to visit an assessment centre or self-isolate at home

At Unity Health, masks are given to patients when they are required for care, such as when you have a cough or other flu-like symptoms. Your care team will provide you with a mask when necessary. 

If you have the correct risk factors, your care team will wear protective equipment and place you in a room separate from other patients. After a careful review, a decision will be made as to whether you need testing, where this should be done, and whether you need to go to the emergency department (if you are not already there) and whether you need to be admitted to hospital.   Patients that have very mild symptoms may be sent home with instructions to isolate at home while awaiting test results and will be followed by public health. 

To reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses, including coronaviruses, you should follow usual health precautions such as:

  • washing your hands often using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoiding contact with people who are sick
  • covering your cough with a tissue or sneeze in your elbow
  • staying home when you are sick
  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces

For detailed information on the status of the virus and risk to Canadians, please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada or Ontario Ministry of Health websites.

Video: How to protect yourself and others during the COVID-19 outbreak