COVID-19: Appointments & Visiting
Changes to visiting guidelines effective August 5, 2020
As we gradually reintroduce visitors to our hospitals, the safety of our patients and staff is our priority. Visitor limitations remain in place.
- In-patients: Two family members/caregivers (18+) may visit during visiting hours (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.) every day. However, only one person will be permitted at the patient’s bedside at a time.
- Out-patients: Only the patient should be attending an outpatient appointment. In special circumstances, one family member/caregiver is permitted. Family members/caregivers who are to attend with the patient need to be approved in advance by clinic staff.
- Emergency & Urgent Care: In special circumstances, one family member/caregiver is permitted.
- Patients who are pregnant/in labour/postpartum: Two family members/caregivers (18+) may visit during visiting hours (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.) every day. However, only one person will be permitted at the patient’s bedside at a time.
Before you plan your visit, please read on to ensure you meet the current family/caregiver presence criteria.
Thank you for your patience as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Our Hospitals
To keep our hospitals safe, everyone is required to wear a mask in our sites, except for admitted patients. 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 visitors MUST:
- Be designated by the patient and recorded by unit.
- Enter at visitor/patient entrances.
- Go through and pass screening. All family members/caregivers will be given a mask unless they are already wearing one that is clean and fits well.
- Wear masks provided at screening at all times or the mask they were wearing when they arrived at the screening station.
- 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. Family members/caregivers must not go to any common areas unless to purchase food/beverages from an HHS cafeteria/café or use a public washroom.
- Eat in the patient’s room to reduce community exposure, unless the patient is in Additional Precautions (Droplet, Contact, Airborne).
- Ensure any food brought in is individually packaged and not shared. All leftovers must be discarded and cannot be kept in unit fridges.
- Practice physical distancing (i.e., 2 meter or 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.
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
We are beginning to resume some appointments and procedures paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are following the direction of the provincial government, which has recommended a phased approach to service resumption in hospitals across Ontario.
This means that we must first provide care to patients who have urgent health needs. If your appointment or procedure was cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, we will contact you directly once we are ready to reschedule you. This may take some time, depending on your health status.
We appreciate your patience as we work to provide care to those with urgent needs. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your doctor’s office for guidance.
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
As we begin to resume services across our hospitals, we are also resuming paid parking across our sites as of June 1, with the exception of the West End Clinic/Urgent Care Centre for patients, visitors and staff who are coming to the 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.
- Two family members/caregivers can be identified by the patient or substitute decision maker to visit every day. However, only one visitor is allowed to be at the bedside. This means that the two visitors must come separately at different times.
- Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 may have one family member/caregiver with them. Personal protective equipment will be provided by the clinical unit for this family member/caregiver to keep them safe while they are with their loved one.
- Family/caregivers must be 18 years of age.
- Visiting hours are 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. (family members/caregivers are to be screened by 7:30 pm at the latest).
- Visits may take place outdoors only if the patient’s health care team has determined that this is safe for the patient. The patient must wear a mask when leaving their room. Outside gatherings should be limited to the two visitors identified by the patient.
Ambulatory Care Patients (Outpatient Services)
Ambulatory Care patients are not permitted to have a family member/caregiver accompany them at this time, with some exceptions for:
- Cancer outpatients – Cancer patients coming to the Oncology Day Services (ODS) or the JCC who are frail or very ill and require assistance, may be accompanied by one adult family member/caregiver. Additional situations when family members/caregivers are permitted and would be encouraged to be present include: a change in the patient’s condition, a new decision about treatment or decisions on goals of care. Family or caregivers who are to attend with the patient, need to be approved in advance.
- Pediatric and Child and Youth Mental Health outpatients are allowed one parent/caregiver to attend the visit with the patient.
- Patients Scheduled for Diagnostic Imaging:
- For obstetrical Ultrasound, one family member/caregiver may attend
- For any sedated procedures, one family member/caregiver may attend
- For all pediatric patients, one family member may attend
- For Interventional Radiology, one family member/caregiver would be allowed to visit pre-procedure, but will be required to leave once the patient leaves the procedural area. One family member/caregiver would 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 DI “tests”, no family/caregivers 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 provider/team, a family member/caregiver may be required to accompany a patient.
Emergency & Urgent Care Patients
A patient who is at imminent risk of dying may have a loved one present with them during their Emergency Department (ED) or Urgent Care Centre (UCC) stay.
Patients with cognitive, mobility or language difficulties may be accompanied by one family member/caregiver until the patient is triaged and settled into a room.
Paediatric 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 family member/parent/caregiver is constantly re-evaluated by the care team and family/parents/caregivers may be asked to leave at any time if their presence is no longer deemed essential to the patient’s visit.
Patients who are pregnant, in labour, or postpartum
We want you to be able to have a support person with you in labour and delivery and on ward 4C (mother-baby unit) regardless of your COVID status. For the safety of your support person and everyone at the hospital, your support person:
• Must not have COVID-19 symptoms.
• Will be screened for symptoms prior to entry to the hospital.
• Will be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment (such as a mask) for the duration of their stay.
• Will be asked to follow proper physical distancing and infection control guidelines.
Women in active labour may be accompanied by one family member/caregiver. This includes the duration of their post-partum stay. This person may have in and out privileges; each time the family member/caregiver re-enters the site, they must be re-screened. Women admitted for antenatal care, primarily on 4B at McMaster University Medical Centre, may have their family member/caregiver present during visiting hours between 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
All patients and support persons should come to the hospital prepared with items they will need for their stay. This should include clothing, electronics, non-perishable snacks and toiletries that will last the duration of the stay (typically 1-3 days).
If you have any questions about bringing a support person with you to hospital, or about your hospital visit in general, please contact your obstetrician or midwife.
For information on COVID-19 and pregnancy, OB/GYN Dr. Dustin Costescu shares his advice.
Exceptions to visiting guidelines may apply, and must be approved by the clinical manager for:
- A patient who is approaching imminent end of life.
- Paediatric Patients including Child/Youth Mental Health Inpatients (up to two parents/caregivers at a time).
- Patients for whom safe care would be sacrificed or for whom treatment would not progress without a family member present (inpatient or outpatient).
- Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre patients.
- Patients Attending Surgery or Other Procedures.
- Pregnant women going to Labour and Delivery or Triage.
- Patients with extenuating circumstances where a family member is younger than 18 years of age (infection prevention and control instructions must be able to be followed for this consideration).
- 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
The following guidelines are for the delivery and consumption of food at all sites during the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions about the guidelines or underlying processes should be directed to site administrators.
If the patient is COVID positive or has an essential visitor who cannot leave the room (e.g., parent of a child unable to leave the patient’s room), HHS will provide in-room meals for the family member/parent/caregiver. HHS unit staff will assist with accessing meals.
For family member/parent/caregiver of all other patients:
To avoid the need to exit/re-enter the hospital, food may be brought from home or purchased for take-out at HHS sites as follows:
• Hamilton General Hospital – Barton Bean & vending machines
• Juravinski Hospital / Cancer Centre – Nora’s Fresh Café & vending machines
• McMaster Children’s Hospital – Corner Café & vending machines
• St. Peter’s – Maplewood Cafe & vending machines
• West Lincoln Memorial Hospital – ED vending machines
Food deliveries (by family member or food delivery service) must be received by the family member/parent/caregiver at the hospital door. Please perform hand hygiene upon entry to hospital after any food deliveries.
No food may be left with HHS staff to be delivered to patients/visitors. Reusable containers, if used, must be cleaned/managed by the family member/parent/caregiver.
All food must be eaten in patient rooms (no cafeteria seating). Common seating areas are for HHS staff only, as directed by Hamilton Public Health Department.
Please practice good hand hygiene at all times, including when entering/leaving the hospital and before eating food.
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.