Care Partner & Visitor restrictions during COVID-19

At WCH, the safety of our patients, physicians, staff and the public are paramount. Given the importance of physical distancing in reducing infection transmission, reducing the number of people that come into the organization during the pandemic is critical. Further, it is essential that all who enter the hospital to follow strict infection prevention and control practices including but not limited to hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, screening for signs and symptoms of illness, and the use of face masks as required. 

Along with other infection prevention and control measures, healthcare organizations have placed limitations on the number of individuals permitted within the hospital environment during the pandemic. These limitations reduce exposure to potentially infectious individuals and promote the safety of patients, healthcare providers, staff and the public. 

WCH will be restricting visits with select exceptions at the hospital until further notice. The process, whereby excepted essential care partners and essential visitors can be identified and approved for visitation is outlined in detail in our Essential Care Partners and Visitors During COVID-19 Situation policy.


1. Exceptions to the visit restrictions will apply to the following patients/situations:

  • Substitute Decision Makers (SDM) or Powers of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC) in the case of patients who lack the capacity to consent to treatment and/or for whom other means of communication with the SDM/POAPC is not possible or suitable for the circumstances
  • Parents or guardians of patients under the age of 18 if needed/requested by the patient
  • Indigenous knowledge keepers
  • Pre-arranged professional American Sign Language (ASL) or language interpreters
  • Community service workers required to attend appointments with patients
  • Care partners providing physical assistance to patients, including patients with disabilities and those with significant mobility or sensory needs
  • Care partners supporting patients undergoing complex surgery/procedures who require support to access services
  • Other situations where an essential care partner is needed to provide safe and effective care as determined in advance by the clinical/service area in collaboration with the patient – examples include patients with a child who could not otherwise access needed care if they cannot bring the child, young people transitioning to the adult healthcare system who need support in making health decisions, situations or health crises where supported decision-making is paramount, etc. 

Note: Proactive determination by local teams of other exceptions with consult involving ethics and/or clinical adjudication screening staff experts as appropriate. 

2. All visitors and care partners will be screened with exposure criteria and sign of symptoms of COVID-19.

3. Visitors and care partners cannot enter the hospital if they have any signs of acute respiratory illness or fever (i.e., sore throat, cough, runny nose, muscle or joint aches or pains) even when symptoms are mild.

4. Visitors and care partners will be required to strictly adhere to infection control standards and expectations including self-monitoring for symptoms, hand hygiene, and PPE where appropriate.

5. For patients with limited English proficiency, language lines and translation services must be made available.

6. Supporting Patients and Care Partners:

  • Where possible, clinical areas will communicate the visit restrictions during COVID-19 to patients prior to their appointments during pre-appointment phone calls.
  • To facilitate communication between patients and care partners who are unable to accompany them to their visits, the use of alternate methods of communication (e.g. Face Time, Skype) is encouraged. 

7. Appeals:

  • Patients, care partners or visitors who have concerns relating to this policy should first speak with the clinical/service team prior to their appointment or arrival so that an appropriate plan can be established. Clinical adjudication is available to provide assistance/support at the time of entry. In urgent situations the clinical manager or administrator-on-call may be contacted.
  • Patients who feel their concerns have not been fully addressed by the clinical/service team can contact Patient Relations at 416-323-7702 or 

The approach to visitor restrictions is informed by evidence, and ethical principles and guidelines for decision-making. Adapted from Toronto Region-HOT COVID-19 Recommended Visitor Restrictions with Exceptions for Acute and CCC/Rehab Hospitals Version Date: June 17 2020. 

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Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)