Continuing Care|Designated Support Person and Visitor|Exceptions & Exemptions|Your Risks, Role and Responsibilities|Masking at AHS Facilities|End-of-Life| Compassionate Exemptions|What to Expect|Screening & Orientation|Virtual Visitation
Last Updated: December 3, 2021
Due to the evolving COVID-19 situation with the new variant of concern, Omicron, the Government of Canada has enacted isolation and quarantine requirements for travelers. If you have recently travelled, these requirements may impact your ability to access healthcare facilities as a designated support person or visitor of a patient or resident. Please see the Government of Canada’s website COVID-19: Travel, testing and borders - Travel.gc.ca for more information.
All AHS sites still require designated support persons and visitors to continuously mask and perform hand hygiene, physical distancing and complete health screening upon entry. Sites with outbreaks or on-watch situations may have additional restrictions. We encourage those who want to be with a patient to contact the site directly before arrival. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
We encourage virtual connection rather than in-person when possible. If a patient, or caregiver of a patient, expresses the need for in-person support, then the following applies for designated support person(s) and visitors:
- Updated Nov. 15 - Maternity – one (1) designated support person can be on-site with the patient. Requests by patients for additional birthing support will be considered by site command posts on a case-by-case basis (see section on additional birthing support below). If your designated support person is a doula, they are expected to be fully immunized. One (1) additional designated support person (for the infant) will be considered in cases of adoption or surrogacy if physical distancing permits. Review our Designated Support Person Access in Maternity page for more information.
- Inpatient Services - two (2) designated support persons can be identified however, only one (1) at a time can be on site with the patient unless alternate arrangements have been made with the service area (e.g., personal support worker or care provider), or if requested by the service area.
- Emergency and Urgent Care - one (1) designated support person if required to support the care of the patient and physical distancing from others (not from their immediate household) must be able to be maintained. Seniors, minors and patients with mobility and/or cognitive challenges should be given priority to have their designated support person remain with them in-person.
- End-of-Life - two (2) designated support persons can be identified and be on-site with the patient, as well as visitors with a visitation appointment scheduled through the service area (see End-of-Life below)
- Pediatric Inpatient and Ambulatory - two (2) designated support persons can be identified and are welcome to be present with the patient at the same time.
- Updated Nov. 15 - Ambulatory: one (1) designated support person only if masking and physical distancing from others, not in their immediate household, can be maintained. A patient’s infant(s) who are six months of age or less should be considered a unit with the patient and can accompany the patient in addition to the patient’s one (1) designated support person. Two (2) designated support persons when pre-arranged with the clinic area and in situations involving:
- The need for assisting the patient and staff 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 caregiver;
- medical or equipment needs requiring two caregivers;
- Involvement of Social Services; and/or
- When requested by the care team.
- Pediatrics: Due to the increased prevalence and spread of COVID-19 variants, sibling visitation for inpatients is temporarily restricted to monthly visits for long stay patients (those who have been admitted for a minimum of 30 days) and for patients who are at end-of-life. Sibling visitation must be approved by site command post and follow guidance from Infection Prevention & Control (IP&C). An adult must accompany sibling(s) if they are under the age of 14 at all times. Sibling(s) can no longer accompany a patient to an ambulatory appointment. Exceptional circumstances for sibling support may be considered through site command post.
- Volunteers: AHS volunteers are recognized as vital members of the AHS team and are able to support patients in addition to designated support persons and visitors.
Sites with outbreaks or on-watch situations may require additional restrictions. We encourage those who want to be with a patient to contact the site directly before arrival.
To ensure we continue to uphold the highest health and safety standards in all our facilities, designated support persons and visitors will still be required to follow continuous masking guideline and perform hand hygiene, physical distancing and complete health screening upon entry. Failure to adhere to these precautions will result in the designated support person or visitor being required to leave the site.
Designated support persons should not come to the site if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, if they have been a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or if they are awaiting test results for COVID-19 unless they meet the criteria for an exemption. Immunized individuals are still required to follow all public health measures, including physical distancing, masking, isolation and quarantine requirements, as well as complete a health screening before entering a site.
Designated Support Persons & Visitors
Designated support persons:
- Are individuals identified by the patient as a needed support and who the patient wants involved in their health matters (e.g., family members, close friends, or informal/hired caregivers);
- 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;
- Are physically and mentally able to assist the patient and staff with patient care;
- Should not be a close contact of someone with possible or confirmed COVID-19;
- Cannot be on isolation or quarantine for possible, or confirmed, COVID-19 unless meeting the criteria of an exemption (see below section on Exemptions); and
- Can support a patient with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 with approval and direction from IP&C.
Visitors are anyone not identified as designated support persons, and access for visitors is currently limited to individuals with a scheduled appointment to see a patient who is at end-of-life, and outdoor visits. Children under 14 must be continuously accompanied by an adult.
Considerations, Variation and Chief Medical Officer of Health Exemptions
- CMOH Exemptions - Individuals who are symptomatic and/or a close contact of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case, who are the designated support person (when no other support is available) for a pediatric patient or for an adult dependent. The sites and service areas must follow the requirements outlined in these CMOH exemptions, authorize entry for exempt individuals, escort them if necessary, and consult IP&C as required.
- Individuals who have an authorized Compassionate Exemption and an appointment booked with the service area to visit a critically ill, or end-of-life patient. These individuals must not be symptomatic at the time of the visit. For individuals who do not have a compassionate exemption, please refer them to COVID-19 Compassionate Exemptions from Quarantine.
- Patient Passes: Patients with an Alternate Level of Care designation, those in dedicated rehabilitation programs and Addiction and Mental Health patients may require an off-site pass. The pass is deemed an essential part of the patient’s treatment plan by the care team and must be ordered by a physician or designate. Please discuss with the patient’s care team regarding pass requirements.
- 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 guidance.
- Updated - Patient Belongings, Gifts, Food and Flowers: Patients can have necessary belongings brought to them by their designated support persons (e.g., electronic devices, charging cables, toiletries, supportive footwear, and clothing in a cleanable container). Items must be cleaned and/or disinfected as appropriate prior to being brought into the site and again at the service area before being given to the patient. Designated support persons and approved visitors should check with the service area before bringing in gifts, food and/or flowers to confirm what is appropriate for the unit and how to bring items in safely. Delivery services cannot bring gifts, food and flowers to patients or drop them off at site entries.
- Updated Oct. 15 - Maternity - Requests for Additional Support: Requests should be made in advance by patients through communication with the delivering site. Requests for an additional designated support person should be forwarded for review to the Site Command Post (or delegate) by the service area during business hours. Approval decisions do not sit with frontline staff and rationale to deny an additional designated support person is based on the individual situation and the ability to maintain a safe environment for the staff, patient, and infant. Requests for an additional designated support person will not be approved if:
- The designated support person is a hired caregiver/support/doula who is not fully immunized as of Dec. 1, 2021;
- The designated support person is symptomatic, awaiting test results, or COVID-19 positive;
- The designated support person is not immunized or partially immunized and has had recent close contact or exposure to a COVID-19 positive person, and they have not completed the AHS facility access 14 day or 10 day quarantine as required by AHS policy;
- The designated support person has ANY influenza or respiratory like illness symptoms; and
- Considerations for adequate space to physically distance already identified in this guidance cannot be accommodated.
This guidance will be adapted as the circumstances of COVID-19 change. Patients or family questions/concerns should be directed to the patient’s care team or Patient Relations at 1-855-550-2555.
View Designated Support Person & Visitor Access Guidance - printable version (also available in most Translated Resources).
Masking at AHS Facilities
Our goal at AHS is to work with patients and designated support persons to accommodate their needs while ensuring that everyone is protected.
To ensure the safety of all staff, physicians, patients and families, masking will continue to be required in all AHS and Covenant facilities, provincewide. This masking mandate will be in place at all acute care, continuing care, and community sites – including COVID-19 testing sites, immunization clinics and labs.
This Directive will continue to be applicable to all staff, physicians, volunteers, designated support persons, and visitors.
Please be aware Albertans entering AHS facilities, who have an authorized mask exception, may be provided with safety precautions such an alternate to a mask, instructions on movement while in the facility, practice physical distancing as well as frequent hand hygiene.
Please let our staff know if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 so they can provide you with the care you need.
While it is difficult to be precise around when a patient is at end-of-life, this generally refers to the last four to six weeks of life.
Supporting patients at end-of-life:
- Patients who are at the end of life can have two (2) designated support persons as well as additional visitors. Visitors must book an appointment with the service area before coming to the site
- Schedule time between visitors to avoid queueing;
- Advise visitors before they come of site access requirements;
- Visitors should leave the site as soon as their visit is complete;
- Community spiritual/religious care providers, Indigenous Elders and traditional knowledge keepers can schedule time to visit, or to perform end of life ceremonies, rituals and rites as requested by the patient;
- Where applicable, spiritual care and or nursing need to consider patient’s pre-mortem and post-mortem end-of-life care;
- The maximum number of designated support persons and visitors with the patient at one time is three (3), space permitting;
- Physical distancing is required unless designated support persons and visitors are from the same household;
- Children under the age of 14 may visit if accompanied by an adult; and
- There are Federal and Provincial Compassionate Exemptions from quarantine for the purposes of visiting a patient at the end-of-life and/or during critical illness.
For more information please review Family Support & Visitation Guidance - printable version (also available in most Translated Resources).
Compassionate Exemptions from Quarantine
Alberta Health and AHS have established a process for persons seeking exemption from quarantine to visit a patient who is receiving critical care for a life-threatening illness or imminent end-of-life care at an AHS, Covenant or continuing care facility or in a home setting.
To request a visit with a loved one in one of these settings, follow these steps.
What to Expect as a Designated Support Person
To support and visit a patient you must:
- Know your risks, role and responsibilities of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 as a support person or visitor before you enter an AHS site.
- Ensure the patient has identified you as a designated support person, and wear designated support identification.
- Be feeling well on the date/time of your visit.
- Follow all required site policies and public health measures.
- Complete health screening prior to entering the facility.
- Continuously wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth.
- Remain in the patient’s room as much as possible and minimize movement within the facility.
- Perform hand hygiene (hand washing and/or use of hand sanitizer) when entering and leaving the facility and when entering and leaving the patient’s room.
Screening & Orientation for Designated Support Persons & Visitors
All AHS sites require designated support persons and visitors to:
- Complete health screening at entry including a symptom screening for adults and children under 18 years of age: Daily Designated Support Person & Visitor Screening Questionnaire For Acute Care, Ambulatory, Emergency & Urgent Care;
- Practice hand hygiene when entering and exiting the facility as well as the patient’s room;
- Continuously wear the procedure/surgical mask provided at entry while inside the facility;
- Physically distance from those who are not living in your household; and
- Minimize movement in the facility by going directly from the entry to the patient’s room and exiting the building when your visit is complete (unless otherwise arranged with the service area).
AHS service providers and teams are responsible for providing an orientation to patients, their designated support persons and visitors including:
- Communicating the risks, requirements and responsibilities while in the facility.
- Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and instructions on how to use it, as well as any additional infection prevention and control precautions for the service area.
Please be kind to staff. They are working hard to take care of patients, families, and all Albertans.
We are encouraging virtual visitation at all healthcare facilities.
If it is not possible to have an in-person visit, staff will communicate this to the patient and their designated support person, and discuss options based on need. Staff will do their best to support virtual visits by phone, video calls or chat apps. For more information on staying connected virtually, refer to our virtual visitation tools and resources.