Visiting a patient or resident

If you are not feeling well or are COVID-19 positive you must not come into the hospital to ensure the safety of our patients, staff and physicians.

Unity Health continues to have a “no visitor” policy in effect, with exceptions for ‘Essential Care Partners’ in specific situations only. Please do not come to our hospital for a visit unless you have an approved visit that has been scheduled by our clinical teams.

These guidelines are in effect to limit the amount of people in our hospitals and reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

Learn how to be approved and scheduled to visit below. 

We know having our loved ones near us when we’re in the hospital is comforting and can help us feel better. For this reason, we’re working hard to make sure our patients are able to have a family member or a support person visit.

Based on the rate of community transmission of COVID-19, we have decided to reduce the presence of Essential Care Partners at our three sites to help keep our patients, staff and community safe. This is being balanced with the need to support Essential Care Partner presence, which is critical to the recovery and experience of our patients.

Only one identified Essential Care Partner may visit an inpatient twice per week for a maximum of three hours once they are approved and receive a scheduled appointment to do so. The designated Essential Care Partner must remain constant for the duration of the patients admission.

The Essential Care Partner should be from within the patient’s social circle, as defined by the Ontario government

An Essential Care Partners must be approved and scheduled by the care team before visiting an inpatient or accompanying a patient to an outpatient appointment.  

Only one identified Essential Care Partner may visit an inpatient every other day for a maximum of three hours once they are approved and receive a scheduled appointment to do so. The designated Essential Care Partner must remain constant for the duration of the patients admission.

The Essential Care Partner should be from within the patient’s social circle, as defined by the Ontario government

An Essential Care Partners must be approved and scheduled by the care team before visiting an inpatient or accompanying a patient to an outpatient appointment.  

There are some exceptions to the above for patients who are end-of-life, pediatrics, labour & delivery, and our emergency department.

  • End-of-life patients
    • Please speak to the clinical team caring for your loved to further understand these exceptions.
  • Pediatric Patients  (under 18 years old):
    • May have 1 designated Essential Care Partner with them
  • Labour and Delivery:
    • May have 1 designated Essential Care Partner with mother and infant as long as needed
  • Emergency Department:
    • Patients in the following situations may have one designated Essential Care Partner while they are in the Emergency Department:
      • All critical patients, trauma and end of life patients regardless of COVID status
      • Patients with significant developmental or intellectual disability, cognitive impairment or unable to effectively communicate
      • Pediatric patients
      • Frail/elderly patients requiring physical and or psychological support
      • Patients experiencing an early pregnancy loss
      • Patients experiencing a mental health crisis

For outpatients and day surgery patients: 

Patients coming to hospital for an outpatient appointment or day surgery are not allowed to have an Essential Care Partner with them.

If the patient meets the following criteria, they may have 1 Essential Care Partner accompany them:

  • Patient has significant mobility issues requiring support for personal care
  • Patient has cognitive issues (e.g. dementia) that limit their ability to participate in their appointment
  • Patient has an inability to communicate verbally (e.g. patient uses non-verbal methods of communication)
  • Where the appointment the patient is attending will include life-altering diagnosis and/or care decisions

Essential Care Partners for outpatient clinics and day surgery must be approved by the patient’s care team or physician’s office before attending an appointment/procedure.

To request and schedule a visit as an Essential Care Partner, please use this list to contact the area or clinic where the patient is staying or where they will have their appointment in order to determine whether you qualify to visit.

Please do not come to the hospital if you have not been approved to visit

Please also note:

We are working every day to align our procedures based on the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and guidelines from Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Health. Depending on the virus’ spread, we might need to scale back the amount of visitors, or we may be able to increase the amount of visitors by expanding our criteria for Essential Care Partner visits. Any updates to our procedures will be posted to the site you’re on now.

Click on the boxes below to learn more about these topics.

What is an essential care partner and how do you become one?

 

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. Essential Care Partners help the patient with basic care needs, mental health and emotional support, and help us to organize the best quality patient safety and care.

Based on the rate of community transmission of COVID-19, we have decided to reduce the presence of Essential Care Partners at our three sites to help keep our patients, staff and community safe. This is being balanced with the need to support Essential Care Partner presence, which is critical to the recovery and experience of our patients.

The Essential Care Partner should be from within the patient’s social circle, as defined by the Ontario government

An Essential Care Partners must be approved and scheduled by the care team before visiting an inpatient or accompanying a patient to an outpatient appointment.  

The patient decides who they would like to request as their Essential Care Partner. This may be a family member, friend, paid caregiver, community support worker or other individual as identified by the patient.

If the patient is unable to identify their own Essential Care Partner, their Substitute Decision Maker can do so for them.

Every patient may have one designated Essential Care Partner. This Essential Care Partner should be from within the patient’s social circle and must remain constant for the duration of the patient’s admission.

Essential Care Partners must be approved and receive a scheduled visit time from the care team in order to visit. Please use this contact list to find the phone number of the patient’s care team to contact them and request a visit.

How do i get approval to visit my loved one?

 

Please use this contact list to find the phone number of the patient’s care team to contact them and request a visit.

The clinic team will ask you a series of questions including:

  • Your relation to the patient
  • Whether you have tested positive for COVID-19 and whether you have any symptoms
  • Whether you have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case
  • Reason for request (they may ask you whether you fit one of the categories listed below)
  • Whether you have already been approved as an Essential Care Partner for the patient when they were on a different unit, or for another patient in the hospital

The team will then process your request and let you know whether you are approved as an Essential Care Partner who can visit. They will work with you to book a time for a visit with the patient.

The unit/clinic team must approve an Essential Care Partner in advance of a hospital visit. Use this contact list to get in touch with the clinic/unit you hope to visit.

The clinic/unit’s decision to approve an Essential Care Partner is based on a number of factors. This process will help us make sure that we:

  • Have enough space in our hospitals to allow patients with critical appointments and treatments to physically distance, reducing any potential exposure to or spread of COVID-19
  • Can continue to increase our clinical services, allowing more patients to safely come to our hospitals without increasing risk
  • Are giving our clinical teams the ability to focus on reviewing and approving requests for Essential Care Partners for our patients who need the most support

Please do not come to the hospital if you have not been approved AND SCHEDULED to visit.

The timelines depend on which clinic or unit the patient is in and the number of Essential Care Partners they can safely accommodate at a time in their space.

Please use this list to find the contact information for the unit/clinic where you would like to request a visit and ask them about their turnaround times for approvals.

No, please do not come to the hospital if you have not been approved to visit in advance.

At this time patients are only being supported to have visits with approved Essential Care Partners inside the hospitals. Visiting with anyone outside of the hospital is not supported. Outdoor visits are allowed only for residents at the Houses of Providence long-term care home (more information is at the bottom of this page).

If you DO NOT HAVE AN approved and scheduled visit, please do not come to the hospital to visit with the patient outside.

Please use this list to find the contact information for the unit/clinic where you would like to request a visit.

Yes, please get in touch with the unit using this list to schedule a time to visit each time you hope to do so.

Based on the rate of community transmission of COVID-19, we have decided to reduce the presence of Essential Care Partners to help keep our patients, staff and community safe. This is being balanced with the need to support Essential Care Partner presence, which is critical to the recovery and experience of our patients.

At St. Joseph’s Health Centre:

Only one identified Essential Care Partner may visit an inpatient twice per week for a maximum of three hours once they are approved and receive a scheduled appointment to do so.

At St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Healthcare:

Only one designated Essential Care Partner may visit a patient every other day for a maximum of three hours once they are approved and receive a scheduled appointment to do so.

We’re working every day to ensure that our patients, families, visitors, staff and communities stay safe. Our cautious approach makes it possible to act quickly depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic changes.

If you were not approved as an Essential Care Partner, it is likely because:

If you feel you should be an 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:

It is important that we continue to limit the number of individuals entering our hospitals to reduce the opportunity for spreading COVID-19.

Our cautious approach makes it possible to act quickly depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic changes.

There is currently no timeline for our visitor restrictions – we are taking this slow but steady approach to ensure that everyone in our communities, including staff, patients and visitors, is safe.

No, anyone who has COVID-19 or symptoms of the virus cannot visit a patient. They should be self-isolating.

If you’re approved and scheduled for a visit, your name will be added by the unit or clinic to a list of approved Essential Care Partners for the day of your approved visit.

At the entrance, there is a team of people screening everyone who comes in. They ask each visitor, patient and staff member whether they have symptoms of COVID-19, and a series of other questions. The entrance screening team will ask for your name when you arrive and for your identification.

This infographic outlines the screening process at our hospitals.

Depending on the area you are coming to, you may be asked to come at a scheduled time. We will give you an ID sticker and a mask when you arrive.

Staff on the unit/clinic you are going to will provide you with some of these instructions before you arrive, and some will be discussed once you get to the hospital.

Our hospital is safe for our patients, Essential Care Partners who visit, and staff. We are all working hard to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients and those providing care to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the steps we’ve taken include:

  • Limiting visitors and the number of people in the hospital
  • Checking and screening for symptoms of COVID-19 at entrances
  • Using masks and appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Putting physical distancing in place

This infographic outlines the key steps we’re taking to keep you safe.

 

Once you have been approved and scheduled to visit, you will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to entering. This means that at the door, our staff will ask you a series of questions. You will also be asked to show identification.

If you pass the screening and enter our hospital, you’ll be asked to wear a mask, clean your hands frequently and maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from others when possible.

When you are visiting, please stay with the patient at all times (at the bedside or at their appointment) and do not visit other clinical or common areas of the building.

Here’s a helpful tip sheet for what we’ll need you to do once you are approved as an Essential Care Partner and while you’re visiting our hospital sites.

  • At Providence, please use the main doors at 3276 St. Clair Ave. East.
  • At St. Joseph’s, you can use Tranquility, Melnyk, East or Our Lady of Mercy entrances depending on where you are going. Information about when these entrances are open can be found online here.
  • At St. Michael’s, please use the Queen Street entrance at 36 Queen St. East.

We encourage you to wear your own mask when you enter the hospital and for your entire scheduled and approved visit within the hospital. The mask must completely cover your nose and mouth. If you don’t have your own mask upon entry, you will receive a mask.

If you are visiting a patient who has special instructions for visiting:

  • You will need to wear a mask the unit/clinic team staff provide you on the unit
  • You may be asked to wear other protective equipment – the staff on the unit will provide you with this and show you how to put it on

Please clean your hands before putting on a mask and wear it properly at all times. This infographic outlines how to wear a mask properly.

As an Essential Care Partner, please remain with your loved one in their room. 

While you may visit our restaurants and cafeterias, all food and beverages must be consumed outside the hospital. You are not allowed to eat or drink while in the hospitals as this requires removing your face mask.

While you are in the hospital, use washrooms dedicated for Essential Care Partners only. Staff will inform you which ones to use.

This infographic has a step-by-step guide on how to wash your hands thoroughly.

In some cases, it may be beneficial for Essential Care Partners to help with some care activities (such as bathing, feeding and changing clothes). Ask the nurse about how you may assist and what safety practices are needed. 

Certain care activities (such as toileting, suctioning) are not permitted.

For COVID-19 isolated patients (positive, patients who are suspected to have COVID, or those who have been exposed), you are NOT permitted to participate in any care activities.

Depending on which unit the patient you are visiting is being moved to, you may not be able to stay with them. This will depend on their visiting times and current capacity for Essential Care Partners. The team will assist you in understanding the criteria for different inpatient areas while you are in the Emergency Department with your loved one.

Essential Care Partners can bring in belongings for inpatients, as well as food that is approved by the patients’ clinical teams, during scheduled visits. If staff identify the need for an urgent item (e.g. medication or medical equipment and supplies) to be delivered outside of the Essential Care Partner’s visit time, this will be managed by staff on the patient’s unit.

If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please reach out to our Patient Relations team at the appropriate site:

Patients and families can request a device to video call their loved one who doesn’t have their own device. Devices can be borrowed for up to 30 minutes at a time between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

  • Patients – Speak to your care team about how to request a device
  • Families and friends – Submit a video calling request to have a device delivered to a patient for a video call

At Unity Health we recognize family members and loved ones are integral to supporting our patients and residents. Get Well Wishes is an electronic message delivery system which allows family and friends the ability to send a personal message to a loved one who is admitted to one of our three hospital sites or is a resident in long-term care.

To send your best wishes, fill out this web form and we will print and hand deliver your message. This free service is available for patients at all of our sites as well as residents in the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence.

Our Gift Shops can arrange delivery of care packages with personalized messages to your loved ones who are admitted to St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s. Please note that the cost will depend on what you choose to include in the gift.

Visit the following websites to learn how you can order a care package:

This service is not available at Providence Healthcare or the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence at this time.

How do i Visit a resident in the Houses of Providence?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to adjust our normal visiting guidelines to ensure the safety of our residents and staff. At the Houses of Providence, we are facilitating visiting for Essential Care Partners (ECPs) only. This is in line with the Ministry of Long-Term Care’s visiting policy for homes located in an area with higher community spread. ECPs provide direct care to residents, such as helping with feeding, mobility, hygiene, or cognitive stimulation.

Currently, visiting is limited to Essential Care Partners (ECPs) only. To register as an ECP:

  • Contact the Houses Visits team by email at Houses.visits@unityhealth.to or through the hotline at 416-400-1902.
  • Provide a maximum of 2 designated caregivers (must be at least 18 years of age). Only one ECP is permitted to visit at a time as the Ministry has identified the City of Toronto as a region with higher community spread of COVID-19. Note: As a precaution to avoid the potential for spreading infection, the sharing of caregivers among Houses residents is not allowed at this time. Hired caregivers should be working at one long-term care site only.
  • Provide a schedule with times for when the essential caregiver will be at the Houses (between 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.).
  • The Houses team will provide further safety guidelines and instructions.

If you have any further questions, please email back at Houses.visits@unityhealth.to or call the visit hotline at 416-400-1902.

Once you have been registered as an Essential Care Partner (ECP), we ask that ECPs follow our safety procedures when in the Houses, including:

  • Screening at the entrance to the Houses and attesting to having a negative COVID-19 test in the last 14 days. This is a requirement by the Ministry of Long-Term Care for indoor visiting. COVID-19 testing is now available at select pharmacies.
  • 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.
  • We ask that ECPs do not take the resident to the common areas inside the facility. This is to support small group activities and physical distancing.
  • 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.

It is important these processes are followed as we want to minimize the risk of spreading infection to our 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.