COVID-19: Appointments & Visiting
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the safety of our patients, families, and staff continues to be our priority. Although we are not going back to stopping all visits, we need to become stricter. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) recognizes that caregivers and support persons are essential, and will endeavour to include caregivers and support persons throughout the pandemic period.
Caregivers and support persons must pass screening to enter the hospital. Please use the online self-screening tool before your visit, on the same day you plan to come to the hospital.
You are encouraged to clean your hands when you enter the hospital and when you enter and exit the patient’s room.
Caregivers and support persons must wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). It is expected that caregivers and support persons will wear a mask and keep the hospital issued mask received at screening on for the duration of the visit. Respiratory etiquette should be followed as instructed upon entry and reinforced at locations where visiting occurs.
Additionally, to avoid removal of masks, eating and drinking by caregivers, support persons, and visitors is not allowed in patient rooms or on units.
Before you plan your visit, please read on to ensure you meet the current family and caregiver presence criteria.
Essential external service providers and vendors are allowed on HHS premises ONLY if authorized by an HHS manager within the unit or department where the visit is required. For more information visit our webpage for partners and vendors.
Thank you for your patience as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Our Hospitals
As of December 2, 2020, HHS is now requiring all visitors and patients to wear medical-grade masks that will be supplied when you enter our hospitals.
When you arrive at a screening point, you will be asked to remove any mask you might be wearing (including cloth masks) and to put on the mask provided by HHS staff.
This measure is put in place to help reduce the spread of COVID within our facilities and to ensure the wellbeing of everyone at HHS.
To keep our hospitals safe, everyone is required to wear a mask in our sites. This is our organization’s policy, in accordance with provincial direction and consistent with the Hamilton municipal bylaw on mandatory masking in enclosed public spaces.
Outpatients, family members, caregivers and other visitors who refuse to properly wear a mask will not be permitted entry in to HHS sites.
If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, we will work with you to accommodate your needs and ensure your safety and that of those around you.
Your cooperation is essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our hospitals and community. By wearing a mask, you’re helping to protect the safety of our healthcare professionals, hospital staff and volunteers, patients and visitors, as well as yourself.
All essential family members/caregivers/ support persons MUST:
- Be designated by the patient and recorded by the unit.
- Enter at visitor/patient entrances.
- Complete and pass screening (you will be given a mask).
- Wear the mask provided at screening.
- Follow strict hand hygiene guidelines and respiratory etiquette (covering sneezes and coughs).
- Stay in the patient’s room for the duration of the visit. Going for walks is not currently permitted, unless to use a public washroom.
- Ensure any food brought in for the patient is individually packaged and not shared. All leftovers must be discarded and cannot be kept in unit fridges.
- Not eat or drink while in the patient’s room.
- Practice physical distancing (2 metres/6 feet apart); separation barriers (e.g., privacy curtains) in patient rooms must be in place.
- Use public washroom(s) and not patient washrooms.
- Consult with clinical team to determine length of visit.
Our online screening tool will allow patients, essential caregivers, and support persons to screen upon entrance to the hospital or prior to arrival on their personal device – available any time the same day they are scheduled to arrive.
Screening in advance will help reduce waiting when they arrive and will help speed up the screening process. The screen will have a date, time and instructions on next steps.
The screening tool can be found at screening.hhsc.ca
Screening At All Entrances
What does that mean for you? Staff will ask patients and visitors about symptoms, particularly respiratory symptoms, and contact with others. If you meet the current case-definition (a combination of symptoms and contact) for COVID-19 staff will begin a special infection-control protocol.
These added measures, while important, may increase delays in our already busy hospitals. We appreciate your patience and encourage you to visit needadoc.ca to determine the most appropriate place to seek care for your medical needs.
Screening Process - Adults
Click the photos below for step-by-step instructions of our screening process
Screening Process - McMaster Children's Hospital
Click the photos below for step-by-step instructions of our screening process
Cafes & Cafeterias
Cafeterias at our sites are modifying their hours and operations. Food service offered at locations remaining open will be limited to take-out packaged options only. Learn more. Cafeteria seating areas are for staff-only while they practice physical distancing.
Parking at Hamilton Health Sciences
Parking fees apply as of June 1, 2020 with the exception of the West End Clinic/Urgent Care Centre for patients, visitors and staff who are coming to the COVID-19 assessment centre.
Parking fees help cover the cost of maintenance and lease payments for our parking lots, as well as vital medical equipment that is not funded by the government.
Patients who are imminently at the end of life: The Clinical Manager or delegate, in partnership with the patient and essential caregivers/ support persons, will determine the best options for caregiver/support person presence. More than one caregiver/ support person (for example, a son, daughter or wife) may be present at the bedside with proactive planning involving Infection Prevention & Control Practitioners and the clinical team.
Ambulatory Care Patients (Outpatient Services)
Ambulatory Care patients are not permitted to have a family member or caregiver accompany them at this time, with some exceptions that must be approved in advance by clinic staff. These exceptions include:
- Cancer outpatients coming to Oncology Day Services (ODS) or the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC) who require accommodation as per the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), or who require support for a cognitive, communication, mobility, emotional or other care need that cannot be managed by staff or through virtual means, may be accompanied by one adult caregiver or support person. Porters are available to assist patients who are in a wheelchair and there are phones in all rooms so family members can call to participate in medical appointments.
- Patients Scheduled for Diagnostic Imaging: For obstetrical ultrasound, one partner, caregiver, or support person may attend towards the end of the scan. Attendance for longer duration is based upon compassionate grounds. It is expected that the partner, caregiver, or support person is masked and respects two meters distancing wherever possible.
- For any sedated procedures, one caregiver or support person may attend.
- For Interventional Radiology, one caregiver or support person will be allowed to visit pre-procedure, and will be required to leave once the patient moves to the procedural area. One caregiver or support person will be allowed to return pre-discharge for same-day patients to ensure discharge instructions are provided with opportunities for questions and to accompany the patient from the site. For all other diagnostic imaging tests, no caregivers or support persons will be allowed at this time due to limited waiting room space.
- Patients for whom we cannot provide safe care or for whom treatment would not progress without a family member present – a small number of patients (e.g. very frail/elderly, patient with dementia, person who is non-verbal or severely disabled) require a family member to be present because we cannot provide safe care otherwise. In this case, and at the direction of the clinical team, a family member or caregiver may be required to accompany a patient.
Emergency & Urgent Care Patients
One caregiver/support person is permitted in special circumstances, such as for patients with cognitive, mobility or language difficulties. The caregiver/ support person may stay until the patient is triaged and settled into a room in the Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre (UCC). The need for a caregiver/ support person will be constantly re-assessed by the care team and caregivers/ support persons may be asked to leave at any time based upon conditions within the department.
Patients who are pregnant, in labour, or postpartum
Patients who are pregnant/in labour/postpartum: One family member/caregiver/ support person may be present for the patient’s entire stay. This person must be re-screened each time that they re-enter the hospital. Antenatal patients may have one family member/caregiver/support person accompany them to an antenatal clinic visit (i.e. clinics located on 4B1, 2F, PND).
For information on COVID-19 and pregnancy, OB/GYN Dr. Dustin Costescu shares his advice.
Pediatric patients on all inpatient units (including children/youth in the mental health program) may have up to two parents/ caregivers present at a time.
Pediatric patients in the Emergency Department, Urgent Care Centre, and Ambulatory Care Clinics are permitted to be accompanied by one parent/ caregiver. The need for a second family member/ parent/ caregiver will be considered on a case by case basis. The second family member/ parent/ caregiver may be asked to leave at any time based upon conditions within the department.
Pediatric patients scheduled for Diagnostic Imaging are permitted to be accompanied by one parent/ caregiver.
Note that siblings under 16 years of age are not permitted to visit at this time; however, exceptions will be made in partnership with the Clinical Manager or delegate, the patient, and the parent/ caregiver/ support person, to determine the best options, and to ensure appropriate supervision is available for children. It is expected that children will adhere to infection prevention and control principles if allowed to visit.
Exceptions to the visiting guidelines may apply, and must be approved by the clinical manager.
Siblings under 16 years of age are not permitted to visit at this time; however, some exceptions will be made in partnership with the clinical manager or delegate, the patient, and parent/caregiver/support person, to determine the best options and ensure appropriate supervision is available for children to adhere to infection prevention and control principles if authorized to visit.
We will do our best to include caregivers/support persons throughout the varying waves of disease spread during the pandemic period. This includes but is not limited to:
- Support for physical care and mental well-being, including:
- Assistance with meals; mobility; personal care Communication assistance for persons with hearing, visual, speech, cognitive, intellectual or memory impairments
- Assistance for patients with disabilities
- Provision of emotional support and/or spiritual support
- Supported decision-making
- Support for care coordination and discharge planning, including Aboriginal Patient Navigators and LHIN Care Coordinators
- Patients attending surgery or other procedures.
- Other special needs as determined by the care team in partnership with the clinical manager.
Connecting with your loved ones
During times like these, we know the importance of keeping connected with your loved ones that are staying in hospital. At Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), there are several ways to keep in touch, including sending a note through our “email-a-patient” service, or through virtual means of communication.
The “email-a-patient” service allows you the option of sending a special note to your loved one. If you wish to send a message to your loved one, please fill out the form found on the website and a staff member will hand deliver it.
In terms of keeping in touch through virtual means, we encourage you to connect with patients by telephone or by video conferencing, such as FaceTime or Skype. Free telephone and public Wifi access are available by accessing “HHS Free Wifi” in your device’s network settings.
Help keep our hospitals safe
It’s your responsibility when you are in the hospital to help keep our hospitals safe.
- All visitors must be screened before entering the hospital.
- Visitors must use designated entrances (Go to hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/covid19 for entrance locations).
- Masks will be supplied at the entrances. They must be worn at all times in the hospital.
- Please practice good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene when entering and leaving the hospital and entering and leaving the hospital unit.
- Please practice physical distancing in all public areas.
- You may visit only the designated patient and once you leave the unit and/or hospital, you cannot re-enter until the next designated visiting day.
External service providers, contractors and vendors
More information on our Vendor Information page.
We understand the important role family and loved ones have in supporting our patients. In these times, it is necessary to protect the well-being of all patients by limiting traffic in and out of the hospital and practicing social distancing.
To support your ability to keep in contact with your loved ones, we would like to provide you with updated information as to how to facilitate this during this difficult time.
Patients may want to receive personal items such as clothing, toiletries or other essential items for their care.
ONLY the APPROVED ITEMS listed below may be dropped off at the Visitor Screening Centres at each of the sites during its hours of operation (8am – 7:30pm Monday to Friday / 10am – 7:30pm Saturday and Sunday). Staff will ask you to transfer your items into a clear plastic bag that will be provided at the screening station; staff will write the patient’s name and room number on the bag. Staff will track the delivery and log any pertinent information.
• Clean clothes only
• NEW Toiletries only
• NEW Grooming items only – toothbrushes, combs, hair brushes, razors
• Personal items – books, magazines, puzzle books, family photos, etc.
• Electronics such as tablets and cell phones, if the patient is able to operate the item on their own; please note that these items must be wiped down with Oxivir before taken up to the unit
• Medications from home for a loved one who has just been admitted
• Food only permitted under below guidelines
• NO Vitamins or Health Food / over the counter remedies
• We will not accept expensive items like jewelry, etc.
• Flowers dropped off for patients are not approved at this time.
If you are requesting special approval for non-approved items, you will be instructed by a staff member at the entrances to contact the clinical manger on the unit where your loved one is for further instructions.
We will do our best to log any items dropped off for your loved ones; however, we will not be responsible for replacing any lost or stolen items.
Food Delivery & Consumption
To avoid removal of masks, eating and drinking by caregivers, support persons, and visitors is not allowed in patient rooms or on units. Food brought in by caregivers, support persons, and visitors for patients must be individually packaged and not shared. Leftovers must be discarded as they cannot be kept in unit fridges. Nor should food be left with HHS staff to be delivered to patients or visitors. Reusable containers, if used, must be cleaned and managed by the family member, parent, or caregiver.
Please practice good hand hygiene at all times, including when entering and leaving the hospital and before eating food.
Questions should be directed to the unit or site administrators.
Retail Pharmacies Are Open
Our outpatient pharmacies remain open at all of our HHS sites for patients that may require toiletries.
These changes to the visitor guidelines are difficult for everyone, but we are here to support in any way we can. Thank you for your understanding during this challenging time. Be assured that our patients are getting exceptional care from our outstanding physicians, nurses, and staff in a way that protects their safety and that of others. We thank you for your support in helping to reduce the number of people entering our facilities.
If you have any questions, please contact your care team or Patient Experience at patientexperience@HHSC.CA.
For further detailed information please ask your health care team. Thank you for your cooperation as we work together to keep patients, families and staff safe.