Family/Designated Support Persons & Visitors of Patients

COVID-19

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

Last Updated: March 30, 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.

AHS continues to implement safety precautions to limit the transmission of COVID-19 in our facilities. These precautions go beyond public health measures due to the vulnerability of the patients we care for and the needs to keep health facilities safe.

Some of these precautions include enhanced screening, continuous masking requirementslimited entry, access restrictions, and access restriction exemption processes. Currently, entry in acute care is limited to patient-identified designated support persons and those visiting a patient at the end-of-life.

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.
  • Cannot be a close contact of someone who has a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 unless meeting the requirements of an exemption.
  • Cannot be on isolation for a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 unless meeting the criteria of an exemption.
  • 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.
  • Alternate designated support persons: Patients must maintain the same designated support persons throughout their hospital stay and for any reoccurring ambulatory appointments. However, a patient may identify an alternate if the original designated support person cannot fulfil their role. Service areas must accommodate the alternate DSP in these circumstances.

Who are visitors?

A visitor is an individual who temporarily supports or socializes with the patient. They are not an essential partner to care planning and/or decision-making.

All designated support persons and visitors are:

  • Cannot have COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms unless qualifying for an exemption.
  • Cannot not be a close contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 unless qualifying for an exemption.
  • Complete health screening upon entry and possibly again when at the service area.
  • Practice continuous masking and follow all other PPE requirements as directed by staff.
  • Proceed directly from site entry to the service area and exit the site once your time with the patient is complete. Do not move about the site.
  • Perform hand hygiene when entering and exiting the site and entering or exiting the patient room.
  • Physically distance from anyone not from their household while at the site.
  • Wear their ID at all times.

Failure to adhere to these precautions will result in the individual being required to leave the site.

Access for Designated Support Persons & Visitors

Acute Care Inpatient Services - Adult & Pediatric Acute

  • 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 Including 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 compassionate exemptions available for those who may 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. If the designated support person is a close contact and is asymptomatic and exemption may be granted by site administration or designate. 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.

Screening for Designated Support Persons & Visitors

Individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate by public health order. They cannot enter an AHS site unless to visit a patient who is at end of life seeking urgent medical care for themselves, a minor child or a dependent adult.

AHS has put in place enhanced access requirements for designated support persons and visitors beyond public health measures due to the vulnerability of the patients we care for and the staff who care for them. Enhanced screening precautions for those wishing to support or visit a patient currently include:

  • Close contacts of a positive or probable COVID-19 cannot enter acute care, ambulatory or an emergency/urgent care site to support or visit a patient for a minimum of 10 days since the day of last exposure unless qualifying for an exemption. This means that anyone who is a close contact of someone with COVID-19, has a case of COVID-19 in their home, or has symptoms of COVID-19, will not be permitted access to Continuing Care or AHS acute care sites as a designated support person or visitor at this time. For more information about being a close contact see COVID-19 Information for Close Contacts of a COVID-19 Case.
  • Symptomatic individuals cannot enter an acute, ambulatory emergency/urgent care site for at least ten days from the onset of symptoms AND their symptoms have been resolved for at least 24 hours before entering. For more information on assessment and testing see COVID-19 Assessment & Testing as well as the COVID-19 Self-Care Guide.
  • Asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must not enter an acute, ambulatory or emergency/urgent care site until a minimum of 10 days have passed from the day they took a Health Canada-approved test that confirmed they are positive for COVID-19. If they develop symptoms, they must not enter a site for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms AND their symptoms have been resolved for at least 24 hours before entering.

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 Restriction Exemptions

Access Restrictions Exemptions

CMOH Exemption - for isolated persons who have minor children or adult dependents that require medical care – Individuals that have a confirmed/probable/suspected case of COVID-19 may leave isolation for the purposes of procuring needed medical care for minor children or an adult dependent. Sites and service areas must be familiar with the precautions and requirements outlined in the exemptions. Screeners should contact the service area service area to arrange safe site access.

AHS Exemption for DSPs of Minor Children and Adult Dependents who are close contacts of a confirmed/probable/suspected case of COVID-19 - DSPs who are close contacts of a confirmed/probable/suspected case of COVID-19 may enter AHS sites for the purposes of procuring needed medical care for a child or an adult dependent. Screeners should contact the service area to arrange review and safe site access.

AHS Exemption for DSPs who are Close Contacts and Asymptomatic - Obstetrics - DSPs who do not meet access criteria because they are close contacts of a confirmed/probable/suspected case of COVID-19 may request an exemption. Site administration/designate must approve entry. DSPs of COVID-19 confirmed or suspected patients must be treated as a dyad and co-isolated with the patient. If a DSP leaves the parameters of isolation, they cannot return to the patient and will have to leave the site. Screeners should contact the service area to arrange review and safe site access.

Compassionate Exemptions for End-of-Life and Critically Ill Patients

CMOH Exemption from Isolation for COVID-19 positive and symptomatic individuals who need to be present during the End-of-Life of a loved one, or a client – A confirmed/probable/suspected case of COVID-19 may leave isolation for the purposes of visiting a loved one in a health care facility at End-of-Life. These individuals must make an appointment with the service area in advance of arrival.

Government of Canada Compassionate Exemption from Quarantine – Access may be granted to international travelers who have a valid Government of Canada and AHS authorized Compassionate Exemption to leave their federally-required quarantine for the purposes of visiting a critically ill or End-of-Life patient. This exemption requires completion of the application process for the COVID-19 Exemptions from Quarantine and Access Restriction. These individuals must have been approved by leadership

AHS Exemption for Visitors who are Close Contacts and Asymptomatic to visit an End-of-life or Critically Ill Patient - Individuals who do not meet access criteria because they are close contacts of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 may request an exemption to visit an End-of-Life or critically ill patient by following the process outlined on the COVID-19 Exemptions from Quarantine and Access Restriction webpage. These individuals must have been approved by leadership prior to arrival and must have an appointment booked with the service area.

Additional Information for Designated Support Persons & Visitors

  • 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

Note: 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).