As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline in North Simcoe Muskoka, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) is pleased to welcome back a limited number of visitors as part of its safe, phased plan to resume visitation.
Visitor restrictions, except for compassionate reasons, were introduced in mid-March as a safety measure to limit non-essential entry to the health centre, contain the spread of COVID-19 and keep patients and staff safe.
“People have understood that visitor restrictions were an important safety precaution taken during the pandemic, but we recognize the separation was very difficult for patients and their loved ones,” says Nancy Savage, executive vice president Patient and Family Experience. “Visitors are vital to patients’ well-being and recovery and are integral members of the care team. RVH is thrilled that we are now able to begin gradually lifting visitor restrictions.”
RVH’s phased approach to resuming visitation was developed in consultation with the health centre’s infection prevention experts, along with members of its Patient Family Advisory Council. Safety remains RVH’s highest priority, so strict infection control measures will remain in place and the health centre is not able to resume open, 24/7 family presence at this time.
In this first phase of the visitation plan, admitted patients will be permitted one visitor, once a week for one hour during specific, pre-booked blocks of time.
The new visitation plan includes the following protocols: Each admitted patient will identify one visitor (minimum 16 years of age) and an alternate to minimize the number of people entering the health centre. Visiting times will be scheduled in advance by the calling the inpatient unit directly the day before.
Patients will be allowed one visitor, once a week during one of the daily visitation blocks; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. OR 5 to 8 p.m. daily. Mental Health visiting hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Visits will be limited to one hour at a time. To ensure safe physical distancing, visitation must be staggered for patients sharing a room. Visitors must maintain a two metre distance between patients and members of the care team. Most visitors will use RVH’s Main entrance, unless directed otherwise, where they will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Visitors who fail screening will be denied entry to the health centre.
Visitors must bring and wear a clean mask for the duration of their visit, while also following safety precautions such as hand-washing, wearing of Personal Protective Equipment, if required, and physical distancing. If a visitor doesn’t have an appropriate mask, a mask will be provided.
Visitors must go directly to and from the unit they are visiting and should not use common areas of the building, other than designated washrooms. Ambulatory patients coming to RVH’s Emergency department or for an outpatient procedure or clinic visit will be allowed one support person in circumstances where assistance is needed. That support person should be identified at the time the appointment/treatment is booked.
Exceptions to the modified visitor’s policy will be made for compassionate reasons, such as critical or palliative patients; patients who require the presence of a family caregiver; partners of patients in labour; parents of paediatric patients or at the discretion of the care team. Throughout the pandemic, families have communicated virtually with patients and their care teams through free phone and Wi-Fi services. RVH also provided free access to television and radio.
“There’s no question that face-to-face visits have a positive impact on patients,” says Dr. Jeff Tyberg, RVH chief of staff. “Whether it’s providing vital support to a patient coming in for an outpatient procedure or clinic appointment, or assisting a patient admitted to hospital, we are so pleased to welcome visitors back to our health centre. RVH believes families and loved ones are essential partners in care and are an integral part of our patient-centred philosophy.”
Provincial guidelines and the future path of the pandemic will determine when RVH can move to the next phase of easing visitor restrictions. A surge in COVID cases, either in the community or the health centre, could result in a suspension of visitation.
For more information on how RVH is welcoming back visitors, please visit the homepage of the RVH website – www.rvh.on.ca.