Family/Designated Support Persons & Visitors of Patients

COVID-19

Virtual Visitation| Who Are Designated Support Persons & Visitors| Access for all Designated Support Persons & Visitors| Entry Screening| Masking|Access Exemptions|Additional Information

Last Updated: June 15, 2022

Important Note

Sites with outbreaks or on-watch situations may require additional temporary restrictions to those listed below. Please contact the site before arrival for the most current access requirements.

Health care and congregate care settings are recognized as vulnerable environments where COVID-19 precautions remain in effect despite public health orders and mandates being lifted.

Precautions such as encouraging virtual visitation, site entry screening, continuous masking, access restrictions and exemptions are still necessary to protect patients, staff and services.

Access restrictions and requirements are continuously under review and eased when it is considered safe to do so.

Currently, access for visitation is limited to patient-identified designated support persons and visitors for patients who are end of life. We request you come to the site to support or visit a patient only if necessary and encourage family and friends to support patients virtually. Refer to our virtual visitation tools and resources for more information.

Information regarding visitation at congregate care facilities can be found on AHS’ Clinical Policies & Procedures page under "Family Presence" and by directly contacting the facility.

Virtual Visitation

We request you come to the site to support or visit a patient only if necessary and encourage patients and family to maintain contact virtually instead. Please do not come to a site if you are feeling unwell. For more information, refer to our virtual visitation tools and resources.

Who Are Designated Support Persons & Visitors

Who are designated support persons?

Designated support persons are individuals identified by the patient as needed support and involved in their health matters (for example, family members, close friends, or privately-hired caregivers).

  • They must be 14 years of age or older.
  • Are strongly recommended to be fully immunized.
  • Should be involved in care planning as much as the patient/alternate decision-maker requests.
  • Must be independent and partner with the healthcare team to support the patient when appropriate.
  • Should assess their risks, role and responsibilities when choosing to support a patient by reviewing the Knowing Your Risk, Role and Responsibilities: A guide for designated support persons during COVID-19.
  • Patients must maintain the same designated support persons throughout their hospital stay and for any reoccurring ambulatory appointments.
  • Alternate designated support persons: a patient may identify an alternate if the original designated support person cannot fulfil their role.

Who are visitors?

A visitor is an individual who temporarily supports or socializes with the patient. They are not typically involved in care planning and/or decision-making. Currently, visitors are limited to the following circumstances and require a pre-approved appointment with the service area before arrival. Please note and children visiting a patient who are under 14 years of age must be continuously accompanied by an adult.

  • Circumstances of end of life.
  • Site administration/designate approved visitation for some critical care circumstances.
  • Circumstances where disease or injury could result in loss of ability to meaningfully interact (including recognition of family and friends).
  • Outdoor visits when meeting the criteria outlined in this guidance

Access Requirements for all Designated Support Persons & Visitors

Individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19 are recommended to isolate and cannot enter a health care facility unless seeking urgent medical care for themselves, or by qualifying for an exemption.

Additionally all designated support persons and visitors must:

  • Clear screening to enter and possibly again when at the service area.
  • Practice continuous masking and follow all precautions as directed by staff.
  • Proceed directly from site entry to the service area and exit the site once time with the patient is complete. Do not move about the site.
  • Perform hand hygiene when entering and exiting the site, after using a washroom, and when entering or exiting the patient room.
  • Physically distance from anyone not from their household while at the site.
  • Wear their ID at all times.

To minimize the risk of transmission, there are limits in place regarding the number of individuals who can be with a patient at one time.  We recommend contacting the service are before coming to the site to be aware of the limits in place for that specific service area. The following outlines guidance for designated support person and visitor presence with patients:

Acute Care Inpatient Services - Adult & Pediatric

  • Generally, two (2) designated support persons can be identified and be present on site simultaneously with a patient;
  • For patients with a stay of ten (10) days or more, four (4) designated support persons can be identified for families to distribute patient support. No more than two (2) designated support persons can be with the patient simultaneously;
  • Room configuration and the vulnerability of patients present may prevent designated support persons from being present simultaneously or require access to be scheduled.
  • Patient who have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or are suspected of having COVID-19, can have designated support persons one at a time when following all required precautions as directed by AHS staff.
  • Speak with the care team regarding the requirements for sibling visitation.
  • See below for information specific to critical care, end of life circumstances, maternity and NICU.

Ambulatory Clinics - Adult & Pediatric, Community Health Clinics & Immunization Sites

One (1) designated support person per patient however, patients are encouraged to attend appointments alone unless the appointment is for a minor, or for an adult who requires assistance. Two (2) designated support persons can attend with the patient when pre-arranged with the clinic area and in situations involving:

  • Pediatric ambulatory appointments (note siblings cannot accompany patients to their appointments);
  • The need for designated support persons to assist the patient with patient care;
  • End-of-Life care or Goals of Care Designation (GCD) discussions;
  • Significant diagnosis/change in medical status leading to poor prognosis;
  • Behaviour challenges requiring two caregivers;
  • Medical or equipment needs requiring two caregivers;
  • Involvement of Social Services; and/or
  • When requested by the care team.

Continuing Care

Access requirements to Continuing Care facilities are determined by the Chief Medical officer of Health. Learn more about access requirements through the current Alberta Health Visiting Policy and contact the specific facility you wish to visit. Review the health screening requirements for continuing care visitors, see COVID-19 Continuing Care Daily Checklist/ICU.

Critical Care

Units will expand bedside access for End of Life or potential loss of life situations to all identified support persons and visitors as approved by site administration/designate. Simultaneous presence may be limited by the ability to safely accommodate more than two (2) designated support persons. This will be dictated by room configuration and patient care needs.

Emergency & Urgent Care

One (1) designated support person only if the patient requires assistance. Seniors, minors and patients with mobility and/or cognitive challenges will be given priority to have their designated support person remain with them in-person.

End-of-Life

Units will expand bedside access for end of life or potential loss of life situations to all identified support persons and visitors as approved by site administration/designate. Simultaneous presence may be limited by the ability to safely accommodate more than two (2) designated support persons. This will be dictated by room configuration and patient care needs. Visitors must schedule an appointment through the service area before coming. The service area must schedule time between visitors to avoid queuing. Visitors must leave the site as soon as their visit is over. There are exemptions available for those who do not meet access requirements. Community spiritual/religious care providers, Indigenous elders and traditional knowledge keepers can schedule time to perform end of life ceremonies, rituals and rites as requested by the patient.

Maternity

Two (2) designated support persons can be on-site with the patient. One (1) of the designated support persona can be a doula. One (1) additional designated support person (for the infant) will be considered in cases of adoption or surrogacy if physical distancing permits. For more information, view frequently asked questions about Designated Support Person Access in Maternity.

NICU

Two (2) designated support persons can be identified and all efforts are made for them to be present at the same time in the NICU, however, due to the vulnerability of patients, access is dependent on the ability to maintain physical distancing and other risk factors. The health care team will work with the designated support persons to collaboratively determine the safest access plan.

Entry Screening

Designated support persons and visitors must clear screening requirements at site entry.  Check the below screening questionnaires to confirm you meet access criteria:

Masking & Infection Prevention & Control Measures at AHS Facilities

Preventing the transmission of COVID-19 is everyone’s responsibility. All designated family/support persons and visitors entering an AHS facility/setting shall be asked to perform hand hygiene, provided with a mask, and informed of the requirement for continuous masking in all areas of the building.

N95 and KN95 masks

Designated family/support persons and visitors may wear their own N95 or KN95 respirator when entering an AHS facility if it is clean, in good condition and does not have a valve. Masks with a valve are not intended for use in health care settings, as they allow the wearer’s exhaled droplets to escape. A designated support person or visitor wearing a mask with a valve will be required to either change to an AHS mask or cover their mask with a procedure mask. Anyone wearing their own N95 or KN95 are strongly recommended to follow the steps outlined in General Instructions for Putting on an N95 Respirator Mask or How to do a Seal Check for Disposable KN95 Respirators.

Certain masks and/or additional personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required once the designated support person or visitor enters the service area. Designated support persons and visitors must follow all PPE precautions as directed by AHS staff. Please be aware that Albertans entering AHS facilities who have an authorized mask exception will be required to follow alternate safety precautions as directed by staff. Designated support persons or visitors who refuse to mask will not be allowed entry. Those who do not comply with continuous masking while in the facility will be required to leave.

Additional precautions all designated support persons and visitors must follow include:

  • physically distancing from anyone not from your household
  • performing hand hygiene when entering and exiting the site, the patient’s room or a washroom
  • minimizing movement throughout the facility by going straight from entry to the patient’s room and leaving directly once your time with the patient is over

Access Exemptions

Designated support persons and visitors qualifying for an exemption must follow all access requirements including screening, continuous masking, hand hygiene, physical distancing and going directly to the service area and exiting the facility immediately after their visit. Failure to follow direction from AHS staff will result in the DSP/visitor being required to leave the site.  Screeners must notify service areas once an exempt DSP/visitor arrives so someone can come to escort the DSP/visitor to the service area.

COVID-19 Positive and Symptomatic Individuals to Visit an End of Life Patient - An individual with a confirmed/probable case of COVID-19 may visit a patient who is at end of life. These individuals must make an appointment with the service area in advance of their arrival and agree to follow all precautions as directed by AHS staff.

Government of Canada - Limited Release from Federal Quarantine For International Travellers to Visit/Support a Critically Ill or End of Life Patient - Access may be granted to international travellers who have a valid Government of Canada and AHS authorized Limited Release from Quarantine for the purposes of supporting or visiting a critically ill or end-of-life patient. This exemption requires completion of an application process available on the AHS website.

AHS Exemption for Close Contacts of a confirmed/probable/suspected case of COVID-19 to Visit an End of Life Patient - Individuals who are close contacts of a confirmed/probable case of COVID-19 may visit an end-of-life patient if they make an appointment with the service area in advance of arrival and agree to follow all precautions as directed by AHS staff. See the AHS webpage on close contacts for more information.

CMOH Exemptions for COVID-19 positive persons who have minor children or adult dependents that require medical care (minor children | adult dependents) - Individuals that have a confirmed/probable case of COVID-19 may procure needed medical care for minor children or an adult dependent. Screeners should contact the service area to arrange safe site access.

AHS Exemption for Designated Support Persons of Minor Children and Adult Dependents who are Close Contacts of a confirmed/probable/suspected case of COVID-19 - A individual who is has confirmed/probable case of COVID-19 may enter AHS facilities for the purposes of procuring needed medical care for a child or an adult dependent. Screeners should contact the service area to arrange safe site access.

AHS Exemption for Designated Support Persons of Obstetrics Patients - designated support persons of obstetrics patients who are close contacts of a confirmed/probable case of COVID-19 may request an exemption to access the site if they are asymptomatic. Site administration/designate must approve entry. Designated Support Persons of COVID-19 confirmed/probable obstetrics patients must be treated as a dyad and co-isolated with the patient. Screeners should contact the service area to arrange administration/designate access approval. See Designated Support Person Access in Maternity during COVID-19 for more information.

Additional Information

Patient Passes: given the level of community transmission of Omicron, passes should only be issued for patients when it is deemed by the care team an essential part of the patient’s treatment plan (e.g., for patients who have an Alternate Level of Care designation, those in dedicated rehabilitation programs and/or Addiction and Mental Health patients) that cannot be delayed to a safer time.

Indigenous Wellness: AHS acknowledges the significance and importance of traditional Indigenous practices and protocols and promotes the involvement of AHS cultural helpers, traditional wellness counsellors, Indigenous Health and Hospital Liaisons or designated Community Health representatives where possible and per the AHS provincial guidance.

Patient Belongings, Gifts, Food and Flowers: Designated support persons can bring needed items in to the patient (electronics, socks, footwear etc.). Check with the service area before bringing in flowers/gifts, and/or food/drinks to confirm what is appropriate for the unit and how to bring items in safely. Delivery services cannot bring items inside to patients.

Community Religious Care Providers: Community spiritual and religious care providers who are registered with AHS Volunteer Resources as Religious Care Visitors (RCVs) are recognized as vital members of the AHS team. RCVs can visit and support patients throughout patient care when requested by the patient and/or the patient’s decision maker. Service areas can procure a list of RCVs available for each site through Volunteer Resources. There are a number of safety precautions RCVs must adhere to when accessing AHS sites including scheduling visitation with service areas prior to arrival. Speak with Volunteer Resources at volunteer_resources@ahs.ca for more information.

Outdoor Visitation in Acute Care

Due to the risk of transmission, outdoor visits for COVID-19 positive, probable or suspected patients cannot be accommodated.

For patients who are admitted, outdoor visitation can occur between the patient, their DSPs and/or other visitors per the following:

  • The suitability of outdoor visitation is to be collaboratively determined between the patient, care team and DSPs;
  • The site needs to have a suitable area to accommodate outdoor visitation where physical distancing can be maintained;
  • Children under 14 must be continuously accompanied by an adult;
  • Before going outside, the patient and their DSPs must agree to follow COVID-19 prevention precautions as outlined by the patient’s care team;
  • Anyone entering the facility to get a patient, or to return a patient to their unit, must be a DSP undergo screening, wear a mask, and practice hand hygiene before entering and exiting the patient’s room and the facility;
  • DSPs and visitors who are not living in the same household at the time of the outdoor visit must physically distance from each other and the patient; and
  • All DSPs and visitors must wear a mask while outside if they are unable to physically distance themselves from the patient (e.g., pushing a wheelchair).