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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 important to the healing and overall well-being of our patients. As such, the presence of ECPs continues to be a priority for Unity Health. Unity Health will be increasing the presence of Essential Care Partners (ECPs) at our sites effective July 6.

It is strongly recommended that visitors/ECPs, vendors and contractors be up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. Unity Health will no longer require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. This is in alignment with other Toronto Region hospitals and based on recommendations from Ontario Health. It also reflects the strong foundation the health sector has built to respond to COVID-19, including the overall vaccination rate of the population.

As a reminder, masking is mandatory at all Unity Health Toronto locations. These measures will remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

Visitors/ECPs entering the hospital are expected to follow screening requirements. Do not come to the hospital if you are feeling unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19.

To create a safe environment for healing, Unity Health will continue to limit the number of people in our rooms and buildings. Only come to the hospital at the time of your visit/appointment. Please do not wait in our buildings before or after your visit/appointment.

Eating and drinking is only permitted in designated locations and never at the bedside.

Read below to learn more about our visitor policy.

Guidance for inpatient visits to hospital

St. Joseph’s, St. Michael’s and Providence:

  • Each inpatient may have two visitors/Essential Care Partners at the bedside at any given time except for end-of-life.
  • There is no limit to the total number of Essential Care Partners a patient may have, but only two can visit at a time.
  • ECPs may visit for as long as they like within the hospital’s designated visiting hours.
  • Exceptions may be made in rare circumstances.

Visiting hours at Unity Health:

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

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

Patients may have one Essential Care Partner (ECP) accompany them to outpatient, Emergency Department and day surgery visits.

Space in our waiting rooms is prioritized for patients. If space permits, we will support the presence of ECPs in the waiting room. ECPs may be asked to wait outside if the waiting room reaches maximum capacity.

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.

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

Effective Wednesday, July 6, each inpatient may have two people at the bedside at any given time except for end-of-life. Exceptions may be made in rare circumstances.

Visitors/ECPs may visit for as long as they like within the hospital’s designated visiting hours.

Visiting hours at Unity Health:

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

It is strongly recommended that visitors/ECPs be up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.

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

Exceptions may be made in rare circumstances. Please speak to the clinical team caring for your loved one to learn more.

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. An ECP can visit a patient while they are staying with us or accompany a patient to an appointment.

If you are coming to visit, here’s what you need to know:

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.

As the weather improves, we anticipate that some visitors/Essential Care Partners (ECPs) and patients may want to go outside on Unity Health grounds during their visits. If unit staff determine it is clinically appropriate, inpatients and ECPs are permitted to go outdoors on Unity Health grounds together during their visit.

These are the expectations for ECPs and inpatients having an outdoor visit:

  1. ECPs are expected to wear a mask inside the building and following screening requirements.
  2. Once they have completed entrance screening, they should go to the unit their loved one is staying on.
  3. If unit staff determine it is clinically appropriate for the patient to go outdoors, ECPs may then accompany their loved one outdoors.
  4. ECPs are expected to accompany their loved one back to the unit at the end of their visit.

Patients may have one ECP accompany them to day surgery and clinic appointments

Space in our waiting rooms is prioritized for patients. If space permits, we will support the presence of ECPs in the waiting room. ECPs may be asked to wait outside if the waiting room reaches maximum capacity.

Patients may have one ECP accompany them to the ED.

Space in our waiting rooms is prioritized for patients. If space permits, we will support the presence of ECPs in the waiting room. ECPs may be asked to wait outside if the waiting room reaches maximum capacity.

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
  • 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
  • Caregivers will be required to have a first dose COVId-19 vaccination by December 20, 2021 have a second dose by February 21, 2022. Proof of a third dose will be required by March 14, 2022.
  • 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 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.

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.

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

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.
  • Patients are permitted to leave their room to eat in the hospital cafeterias and food outlets, if permitted by their care team. They must eat within designated areas in Unity Health’s cafeterias.
    • Patients are not permitted to use the staff, physician and learner eating area. Signage is up to indicate the appropriate areas for each group.
    • Everyone is required to maintain a physical distance of 2 meters in the cafeteria seating areas.
  • Patients are permitted to order food from an external source, including from delivery services. Patients who order food from an external source must be able to retrieve their food from the front entrances.
    • Staff are not able to support in the delivery of food.
    • Food delivery services are not permitted to enter the hospital

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 important to the healing and overall well-being of our patients. As such, the presence of ECPs continues to be a priority for Unity Health. We have other protective measures that will continue to be in place in our hospitals, including the requirement that everyone entering the hospital to wear a mask.

Essential care partners, visitors, vendors and contractors tend to come and go from the environment. Staff and physicians remain on site through the day and week, where exposure is greatest and ongoing. Expectations for staff and physicians are typically different than what is expected of patients and essential care providers.

This is in alignment with other Toronto Region hospitals and based on recommendations from Ontario Health. It also reflects the strong foundation the health sector has built to respond to COVID-19, including the overall vaccination rate of the population.

We strongly recommend everyone to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations as vaccines continue to be extremely important for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Yes. Hospitals have policies that require employees, physicians, learners and volunteers to show proof of immunization for communicable diseases. Health care workers work in a vulnerable setting, and vaccination against communicable diseases is the best way we can keep each other and our patients safe.

We have seen throughout this pandemic that COVID-19 is unpredictable and can evolve quickly. We all need to continue to be vigilant and remain prepared to implement additional protective measures if we see evidence of variants that spread more easily and are more severe.

Last updated July 06, 2022