Visitor Policy

Visitor/Essential Care Partner policy

Our mission at Unity Health is to provide compassionate physical, emotional and spiritual care to all in need. We recognize family members and loved ones are integral to supporting our patients and the presence of Essential Care Partners (ECPs) is a priority for our organization. We are also committed to ensuring that our patients, their loved ones, our staff, and our communities are kept as safe as possible. As of Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, we will be reducing the presence of Essential Care Partners due to the increasing community spread of COVID-19.

This decision is in alignment with policies at a number of hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area and is part of our commitment to providing the safest environment possible for care and healing.

We know that this may be challenging news to hear, but it is a necessary step to create the safest environments possible for our patients, their loved ones and our people. We recognize family members and loved ones are important to the healing and overall well-being of our patients. As such, we will continue to support ECP presence in a reduced capacity.

Guidance for inpatient visits to hospital

St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s:

  • Each inpatient who has a length of stay fewer than seven days will not have an ECP visit.
  • Each inpatient who has been in hospital for longer than seven days may identify two designated ECPs where one ECP may visit within a 24-hour period. The ECPs must remain constant for the duration of the patient’s admission.
  • Exceptions include: End-of-life less than two weeks; pediatric patients; and patients with significant language barriers, cognitive and physical needs.
  • Inpatient visits continue to be a maximum length of three hours.

Providence:

  • Each inpatient who has a length of stay fewer than three days will not have an ECP visit.
  • Each inpatient who has been in hospital for three days or longer AND had two negative COVID-19 tests within the first three days of admission may identify two designated ECPs where one ECP may visit within a 24-hour period. The ECPs must remain constant for the duration of the patient’s admission.
  • Exceptions include: End-of-life less than two weeks; and patients with significant language barriers, cognitive and physical needs.
  • Inpatient visits continue to be a maximum length of three hours.

Visiting hours at Unity Health:

  • St. Joseph’s Health Centre: 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • St. Michael’s Hospital: 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Providence Healthcare: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Please speak to the clinical team caring for your loved one to further understand how this change affects you and your loved ones.

Guidance for outpatient, Emergency Department and day surgery visits to hospital

Generally, patients attending outpatient clinic appointments and day surgery will not have an ECP. Patients may have one ECP accompany them to these areas only if they meet the following criteria:

  • Patient has significant mobility issues (e.g. patient requires significant physical support accessing an appointment or attending to personal care)
  • Patient has cognitive issues (e.g. dementia)
  • Patient has an inability to communicate verbally (e.g. patient uses non-verbal methods of communication, English is not their first language)
  • Where the appointment the patient is attending will include sharing a life-altering diagnosis

Generally, patients attending the Emergency Department (ED) will not have an ECP. Patients may have one ECP accompany them to the ED only if they meet the following criteria:

  • All critical patients, mental health crisis, trauma and end of life patients
  • Patients with significant developmental or intellectual disability, cognitive impairment or who are unable to effectively communicate
  • Pediatric patients
  • Frail/elderly patients requiring physical and or psychological support (i.e. falls prevention)
  • Patients experiencing an early pregnancy loss

Guidance for visits to residents in the Houses of Providence

At the Houses, ECPs provide direct care to residents, such as helping with feeding, mobility, hygiene, or cognitive stimulation. Note that this definition is different than an ECP in the acute care or rehabilitation hospitals of Unity Health.

Please contact your loved one’s care team for more detailed information about visiting at the Houses of Providence.

Please do not come to the hospital if you have not been approved to visit. For more information about COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 page. For more information including exceptions to these rules, read our frequently asked questions below.

FAQs about our Visitor/Essential Care Partner policy

St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s:

  • Each inpatient who has a length of stay fewer than seven days will not have an ECP visit.
  • Each inpatient who has been in hospital for longer than seven days may identify two designated ECPs where one ECP may visit within a 24-hour period. The ECPs must remain constant for the duration of the patient’s admission.
  • Exceptions include: End-of-life less than two weeks; pediatric patients; and patients with significant language barriers, cognitive and physical needs.
  • Inpatient visits continue to be a maximum length of three hours.

Providence:

  • Each inpatient who has a length of stay fewer than three days will not have an ECP visit.
  • Each inpatient who has been in hospital for three days or longer AND had two negative COVID-19 tests within the first three days of admission may identify two designated ECPs where one ECP may visit within a 24-hour period. The ECPs must remain constant for the duration of the patient’s admission.
  • Exceptions include: End-of-life less than two weeks; and patients with significant language barriers, cognitive and physical needs.
  • Inpatient visits continue to be a maximum length of three hours.

Visiting hours at Unity Health:

  • St. Joseph’s Health Centre: 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • St. Michael’s Hospital: 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Providence Healthcare: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Starting on Monday, Nov. 1, all Essential Care Partners (ECPs) entering the hospital will be required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 with photo identification. Exceptions will apply for individuals with approved medical exemptions and visitors of specific patient populations. For the protection of all our patients, we encourage everyone eligible for vaccination to be fully vaccinated.

Please speak to the clinical team caring for your loved one to further understand these guidelines.

Please note visitors who are not approved to visit any of our Unity Health Toronto locations will be asked to leave by our screening team.

Vaccine requirement exceptions
Starting on Monday, Nov. 1, all Essential Care Partners (ECPs) entering the hospital will be required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 with photo identification. Exceptions will apply for individuals with approved medical exemptions and visitors of specific patient populations. For the protection of all our patients, we encourage everyone eligible for vaccination to be fully vaccinated.

All Essential Care Partners must:

  • Have applied for, been accepted, and scheduled a visit as an Essential Care Partner, and
  • Be feeling well, and
  • Have not tested positive for COVID-19, and
  • Do not have a close contact who has tested positive for COVID-19

An Essential Care Partner is a member of a patient’s family, community or a friend who is already in the patient’s social circle. Once approved and scheduled by the team, an Essential Care Partner will be able to visit the patient while they are staying with us or accompany the patient to an appointment.

St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s:

  • Each inpatient who has a length of stay fewer than seven days will not have an ECP visit.
  • Each inpatient who has been in hospital for longer than seven days may identify two designated ECPs where one ECP may visit within a 24-hour period. The ECPs must remain constant for the duration of the patient’s admission.
  • Exceptions include: End-of-life less than two weeks; pediatric patients; and patients with significant language barriers, cognitive and physical needs.
  • Inpatient visits continue to be a maximum length of three hours.

Providence:

  • Each inpatient who has a length of stay fewer than three days will not have an ECP visit.
  • Each inpatient who has been in hospital for three days or longer AND had two negative COVID-19 tests within the first three days of admission may identify two designated ECPs where one ECP may visit within a 24-hour period. The ECPs must remain constant for the duration of the patient’s admission.
  • Exceptions include: End-of-life less than two weeks; and patients with significant language barriers, cognitive and physical needs.
  • Inpatient visits continue to be a maximum length of three hours.

If you are approved to visit, before coming please:

  • Bring the following items to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination:
    • One piece of photo identification
    • Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination (have received the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine or combination of COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization AND having received the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days ago)
      To download or print your vaccination receipt, visit Ontario.ca/proofofvaccination or call 1-833-943-3900 between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week.
  • Before coming, check which entrance to by going to the preparing for your appointment section of this page
  • At our entrances, you will be screened. This poster outlines what steps you will need to follow, and the text version online here
  • Wear a mask to the hospital – if you don’t have one or need a different one, we will give you one

End-of-life Essential Care Partner visits have been modified to support patients with access to immediate family and/or persons of great importance to them. Please speak to the clinical team for further details.

If you meet all other visitor requirements, you may visit a COVID-19 positive patient. When visiting, you will be required to follow strict infection prevention and control practices, including wearing personal protective equipment as directed, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Virtual visits can also be arranged as an alternate option.

Generally, patients attending outpatient clinic appointments and day surgery will not have an ECP. Patients may have one ECP accompany them to these areas only if they meet the following criteria:

  • Patient has significant mobility issues (e.g. patient requires significant physical support accessing an appointment or attending to personal care)
  • Patient has cognitive issues (e.g. dementia)
  • Patient has an inability to communicate verbally (e.g. patient uses non-verbal methods of communication, English is not their first language)
  • Where the appointment the patient is attending will include sharing a life-altering diagnosis

ECPs for day surgery and clinic appointments must follow our COVID-19 vaccinations requirements. If you are not fully vaccinated and you are the ECP for an outpatient who requires support for physical or cognitive reasons, please contact the clinic for next steps.

Generally, patients attending the Emergency Department will not have an ECP. Patients may have one ECP accompany them to the ED only if they meet the following criteria:

  • All critical patients, mental health crisis, trauma and end of life patients
  • Patients with significant developmental or intellectual disability, cognitive impairment or who are unable to effectively communicate
  • Pediatric patients
  • Frail/elderly patients requiring physical and or psychological support (i.e. falls prevention)
  • Patients experiencing an early pregnancy loss

ECPs in the Emergency Department must follow our COVID-19 vaccinations requirements. Some exceptions to our ECP vaccination requirements apply to ECPs who are accompanying a patient in our Emergency Departments:

  • With life or limb-threatening conditions
  • Who is under 18 years of age
  • Who has a physical, cognitive or developmental disability that compromises the patient’s ability to advocate for themselves and make care decisions

At the Houses, ECPs provide direct care to residents, such as helping with feeding, mobility, hygiene, or cognitive stimulation. Note that this definition is different than an ECP in the acute care or rehabilitation hospitals of Unity Health.

Please contact your loved one’s care team for more detailed information about visiting at the Houses of Providence.

Once you have been registered as an Essential Care Partner (ECP), we ask that ECPs follow our safety procedures when in the Houses. It is important these processes are followed as we want to minimize the risk of spreading infection to our residents and staff. Procedures include:

  • Testing of all staff, students, volunteers, and ECPs, regardless of vaccination status, at least twice a week prior to entry into the home as part of enhanced active screening practices.
  • Requiring a negative test upon entry to a long-term care home for all ECPs and support workers who provide essential services to a resident or to the facility, unless they had a negative test the day before.
  • Requiring essential caregivers (ECPs) to be fully vaccinated, unless they have a valid medical exemption or are attending to a resident in a palliative end-of-life situation. Caregivers will be required to have a first dose by December 20, 2021 and all required doses to be considered fully vaccinated by February 21, 2022. In the interim, designated essential caregivers who are not fully vaccinated would need to restrict their visit to the resident’s room.
  • Limiting indoor visits to a maximum of two people per resident at a time and outdoor visits, where feasible, to a maximum total of four people per resident at a time.
  • Screening at the entrance to the Houses. This is a requirement by the Ministry of Long-Term Care for indoor visiting.
  • ECPs should remain in the resident’s room. ECPs to ask staff if they require cultural food to be reheated, etc. The resident can be taken for walks outside of the building or in the gardens, but cannot leave the Providence premises.
  • ECPs will wear a surgical/procedural mask and face shield at all times.
  • Meticulous hand hygiene must be maintained throughout the visit as well as adherence to all infection prevention and control requirements.
  • Six-foot distancing is not required for an ECP and their resident when wearing a mask and face shield, however, the caregiver must maintain six-foot physical distancing from all other residents and staff.
  • To ensure all ECPs are aware of the safety measures in place, the Houses team will be providing training to all ECPs.

  • St. Joseph’s Health Centre: There are several hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast accommodations located near to St. Joseph’s Health Centre. Please view a listing of nearby accommodations on Google Maps.
  • St. Michael’s Hospital: Several local hotels have special rates for patients, families and friends. Ask for the St. Michael’s compassionate rate when booking a room. Please view a listing of nearby accommodations on Google Maps.
  • Providence Healthcare: Please view a listing of nearby accommodations on Google Maps.

If you feel you should be an approved visitor or Essential Care Partner who can visit a patient but were told you do not qualify, you can request an appeal by contacting Patient Relations at the site where the patient you’d like to visit is located:

Connecting virtually is a great alternative to in-person visits. Please visit our Virtual Visits with Inpatients page to learn more.

  • Call the unit the patient is on. You can find a unit by visiting our Clinic and Unit Contact Information page.
  • The unit will ask you a number of questions, including your relation to the patient, whether you have COVID-19 or symptoms, if you have a close contact with COVID-19, if you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and reasons for your request.
  • If approved, the unit will share information with you on how to book a visit.

Essential Care Partners may bring essential items that support and comfort our patients. This includes i) essential “bedside basics” for patients and ii) food that is nonperishable or single serving.  See below for process on bringing essential items and food to a patient.

Process:

If a patient requires an essential item to support them in hospital, these should be brought in by the designated Essential Care Partner (ECP) during their pre-approved/scheduled visits.

Alternatively, the following processes apply at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Healthcare:

  • Bedside Basics can be dropped off with screeners at designated entrances.
  • Screeners will not accept approved food or cash.
    • We discourage patients from bringing in cash or other valuables. In special circumstances where cash is required by the patient, this should be delivered directly to the patient by the ECP during a scheduled visit or arrangements will need to be made with the care team.
St. Joseph’s Health Centre St. Michael’s Hospital Providence Healthcare
Garron Our Lady of Mercy

10 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily

 

Donnelly (Queen St.)

10 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily

 

Main Entrance

10 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily

 

Melynk

10 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily

 

NOTE: At Providence, items can be dropped off 7 days a week but will only be delivered to patients Monday through Friday. Items dropped off over the weekend will be delivered the following Monday.

Permitted items:

Essential Bedside Basics for Patients

  • Personal aides (walkers, canes, glasses, hearing aids, prosthetics etc.)
  • Communication aides (phone, charger, iPads, e-readers etc.)
  • Toiletries (new toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, feminine hygiene products etc.) Clothing as absolutely necessary (for a maximum of 3 days)

Food for Patients

  • Essential Care Partners may bring in food for a patient so long as it is a single serving and does not require heating or refrigeration.

NOTE: Patients are strongly discouraged from ordering food from an external source as they are expected to remain in their rooms and not move throughout the hospital. Staff are not able to support the delivery of food. Food delivery services are not permitted within the hospital.

Last updated January 14, 2022