Coronavirus Information for Patients and Families

Updated April 3, 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 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.

Please note: We are not permitting any in-person family visits for patients who are COVID-19 positive or a Person Under Investigation (PUI), even if they meet the above exceptions. We recognize this may be distressing for patients and families. This difficult decision was made out of necessity to limit the transmission of the virus and protect our patients, families, staff and physicians. We have created a formal appeal process for any patient or family member who wishes to appeal a decision to not permit an in-person family visit.

Expectations of inpatients

To continue to keep patients, staff and physicians safe, all patients are being asked to follow these guidelines:

  • Remain on your unit and do not wander around the hospital
  • Refrain from going to the cafeteria or other public areas

For patients who must leave to smoke, please remember the importance of keeping to physical distancing principles and not visiting with family or friends outside.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are discouraging the practice of having personal items and food brought into the hospital to reduce the opportunity for transmission of the virus.

We do recognize there are some essential items that may support and comfort our patients. With this in mind, effective Monday, April 6, we will be implementing a delivery and transfer policy for certain essential items. The items that will be accepted include:

  • Essential “bedside basics” for patients (i.e. walkers, hearing aids, mobile devices, toiletries, etc.)
  • Food that is culturally required and not provided by our food services

Items must be able to be wiped for disinfecting purposes or be in a bag or container that can be wiped and disinfected upon arrival at the hospital.

If you would like to arrange for a delivery or pick-up for an item outlined above, patients or a families may coordinate with Patient Relations to arrange deliveries/pick-up.

Patient Relations can be contacted at each of our three sites as follows:

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.

See PDF here.

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.

Health Records

Health Records will be closing its doors to the public, effective March 23. All inquiries will be dealt with by phone, fax or email:

For requests at St. Joseph’s

For requests at St. Michael’s

  • Phone: 416-864-6060 (ext. 2169)
  • Fax: 416-864-5831
  • For general health records inquiries, email healthrecords@smh.ca
  • For release of information, email ROI@smh.ca

For requests at Providence

St. Joseph’s outpatient pharmacy

To maintain patient services and adequate staffing, the St. Joseph’s outpatient pharmacy will be closing an hour earlier. Effective April 6, the pharmacy will operate Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

If you have any questions, please contact an outpatient pharmacy staff member at 416-530-6555. 

St. Joseph’s Gift Shop

Closed until further notice.

St. Michael’s Prescription Care Centre

The St. Michael’s outpatient pharmacy has closed to the public until further notice, effective March 31. 

If you regularly have your prescriptions filled at the pharmacy, please have your non-urgent prescriptions filled at pharmacies in the community at this time. Should you have any questions about how to transfer your prescription to a community pharmacy, please email prescription@smh.ca or leave a voicemail at 416-864-5110.

We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.

St. Michael’s Gift Shop

Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also accepting online orders.

Medical Imaging – Film Library at St. Michael’s

Online access only.

Patient and Family Learning Centre At St. Michael’s

Online access only.

Providence outpatient pharmacy

The outpatient pharmacy at Providence will be  reducing hours of operation, effective April 4, to Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pharmacy will be closed to the public on Saturdays. For questions or requests, reach out by phone at 416-285-3805.

To protect the safety of our patients, staff and physicians, clinics will be pre-screening all patients booked for urgent, in-person appointments for COVID-19 symptoms. You will receive a phone call from your specialist’s clinic before your appointment. You will then be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 again before entering St. Michael’s or St. Joseph’s. After both screenings, you will be given a location for your appointment.

If you do not hear from your specialist before your appointment, please reach out to them 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

  • Weekday hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. – Please note the centre at St. Michael’s is closed for cleaning from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m, with the last patient seen before mid-day closure at 12:45 p.m. 
  • Weekend hours: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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

  • Weekday and weekend hours: 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. 

Assessment Centres will now focus on symptoms, and testing in the assessment centres will be limited to those who have mild symptoms (cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, runny nose, and joint aches, and may also include nausea, diarrhea and stomach pains) OR fever and are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 to large groups of people, including:

  • Those who work within at-risk settings including any healthcare setting (e.g., acute care, complex continuing care and rehabilitation hospitals; primary care; paramedics; long-term care homes; retirement homes; reactivation centres; dialysis centres), congregate settings (e.g. homeless shelters, group homes, respite centres, correctional facilities); school or childcare centres; first responders (police, paramedics, firefighters – if they have not already been tested through their own Occupational Health and Safety Department)
  • Those who reside in vulnerable settings including acute care, complex continuing care and rehabilitation hospitals; long-term care homes; retirement homes; reactivation centres; congregate settings (e.g. homeless shelters, group homes, respite centres, correctional facilities) and those who are patients at dialysis centres

Symptomatic patients should self-isolate while waiting to reach Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) or seeking medical attention. For more information about when you should consider going to the Emergency Department, please visit the Toronto Region COVID-19 Assessment Centres information page.

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

There is a new user-friendly online portal where the public can easily access their COVID-19 lab test results.

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