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Visitors & Care Partners

Care Partners play an important role in a patient’s healing journey. St. Mary’s must balance the needs of our patients with the responsibility to do everything we can to keep our patients and staff safe. Learn more about visiting guidelines, masking and how Patient Relations can support you in connecting with someone in our care.

St. Mary’s believes in a philosophy of open visiting for family and Care Partners. Given our limited space in patient care areas, our clinical team will work together with the patient, family and Care Partners to determine when we need to reduce the number and duration of visits, and the number of people at the bedside at any one time, to ensure safe patient care. Below are some additional details about this guideline. 

Inpatient Units:

  • Care Partners and visitors will be allowed to visit their loved ones with an open policy for visiting.
  • Care Partners will be designated by the patient or the substitute decision-maker (SDM) for the patient.
  • There is no limit to the number of visitors, but we ask that only two Care Partners or visitors should be at the bedside at one time (due to space and safety issues).
  • To promote rest and wellbeing for patients, visitors as defined in this guideline are encouraged to limit visits to the period of 8am to 8pm seven days per week.
  • Some units have a quiet time and request limited visits during these rest periods. Care team members in these areas will work with patients, families/Care Partners and visitors to observe these quiet periods.
  • When overnight support is recommended for patients, the patient, family member and care team will establish expectations of quiet time and agreement with roommates.
  • Sanitize hands often, including when entering and exiting the hospital and a patient’s room.
  • Enter through the main entrance between 6am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 7:30pm on weekends. At other times, please enter through the Emergency Department.
  • No eating or drinking while visiting at the bedside, however, common lounge areas and the cafeteria will be available to take a break from the beside as needed.                                   
  • You may be asked to leave your loved one’s room during times of patient care or other periods due to space limitations.
  • Try to avoid visiting during mealtimes (Breakfast 7:45am-8:30am; Lunch 11:45am-12:30pm; Dinner 4:45pm-5:30pm) unless assisting a patient.                               

Ambulatory and Emergency Department

  • For outpatient appointments, one family member/Care Partner is encouraged to accompany patients. Additional persons may be asked to wait in a common area or “swap out” periodically due to limited space and seating in clinic areas, or when safety prevents them from remaining in the care area (e.g. during an x-ray).
  • Limit one Care Partner in the Emergency Department due to limited space and seating. Pediatric patients will be allowed two Care Partners at the bedside.
  • Use the public restroom on the patient’s floor only or the public restroom in outpatient areas.

Infection Prevention and Control

Outbreak units may restrict in-person Care Partners' and visitors’ presence–some exceptions do apply, please speak to your nurse or Resource Person. Care Partners will be notified as soon as possible of an outbreak and can share the visiting restriction with family and friends. 

Family members, Care Partners or general visitors must:

  • Not attend to any area of the hospital if they are showing symptoms of any communicable disease, including those associated with COVID-19.
  • Follow current hospital policy regarding mask-wearing.
  • Adhere to all additional isolation precautions and wear the required personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary, and this will be provided by the clinical area.

Failure to comply with these guidelines may result in the Care Partner/visitor being asked to leave the hospital.

Virtual Visits

We have a Patient Experience Guide available seven days a week from 9am to 4pm to help inpatients connect virtually with their loved ones if needed. Contact 519-749-6578 ext. 1184 or email patientrelations@smgh.ca if you would like help connecting over Zoom or by phone with your loved one.

For questions about our guidelines, please ask a member of the care team or Patient Experience at 519-749-6578, ext. 6867 or patientrelations@smgh.ca.


Ambulatory Care - medical services performed on an outpatient basis, without admission to a hospital e.g. emergency department visits, outpatient clinic appointments, diagnostic testing.

Care Partners (CPs) - provide physical, psychological and emotional support, as deemed important by the patient and/or necessary by the patient and their care team. This care can include support in decision-making, care coordination and continuity of care. Care partners can include family members, close friends or other paid/unpaid caregivers identified by the patient or substitute decision-maker. Care partners provide direct care/support to the patient including but not limited to:

  • Assistance with meals (e.g. socialization during meals can support intake)
  • Assistance with mobility/supporting fall prevention
  • Assistance with personal care (washing/brushing teeth/hair)
  • Communication assistance for persons with hearing/visual/speech/cognitive/intellectual or memory impairments
  • Communication assistance for persons with specific ethnocultural needs
  • Assistance by designated representatives for persons with disabilities
  • Provision of emotional support
  • Supported decision-making & discharge planning

Family - a person (or persons) defined by the patient who may be immediate or extended family or close friend.

Outbreak - an increase in the number of cases of an infectious disease (e.g. Covid-19, MRSA) above what is normally expected for a group or place.  Additional restrictions on family presence may be added during a unit outbreak. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - pieces of clothing or equipment (e.g. masks, gowns, gloves)

Visitor - a person (or persons) that interact socially with a patient but whom the patient does not identify as a family member or a Care Partner, and who does not have a role in their daily care needs. Visitors have more limited access and are asked to adhere to recommended visiting hours. 

As of April 17, 2023, St. Mary’s has shifted from Universal Masking to a Mask-Friendly Policy.

What this means:

  • For visitors, Care Partners, patients, volunteers and team members, masks will no longer be required in hallways, meetings, breakrooms, shared offices and most clinical areas.
  • Patients and Care Partners can request that anyone in their presence wear a mask. This choice will be honoured and respected without question.
  • Care Partners and staff may be required to wear a mask while interacting with a patient in isolation or where additional precautions are in use. In each case, a sign will be posted on their door to communicate this change.
  • Patients presenting at SMGH’s Emergency Department with a respiratory illness will be asked to wear a mask while waiting for care. One Care Partner is permitted to accompany a patient due to space limitations.
  • SMGH may reintroduce universal masking based on disease activity, during respiratory season and for outbreak management.
  • Importantly, masks will remain available at SMGH for anyone that prefers to wear one, and your choice will be respected and supported.

Please note that active outbreaks may cause the hospital to temporarily suspend visits to units impacted if needed.

If as a Care Partner or visitor, you are feeling unwell, please stay home. This will help us continue to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, patients and community.

For patients that are on a unit that is experiencing an outbreak, generally, in-person presence is not permitted. However, Clinical Care teams are empowered to make exceptions to expand or decrease in-person presence under special circumstances and for Essential Care Partners. Special circumstances include:

  • If the care team feels changes to in-person presence are required by the patient to make a marked improvement in the patient’s condition; or
  • Patients that are in their final days of life.

Essential Care Partners are those whose presence is required for the patient to communicate or for specific assistance. This may include care for patients that:

  • Are under the age of 18;
  • Require specific assistance due to a physical disability or condition of mental impairment (confused, disoriented or cognitively impaired); or
  • Are unable to communicate effectively with the care team, e.g., require a translator that the phone line translation service is not able to provide.

If you have questions, please contact Patient Experience at 519-749-6578, ext. 6867. 

Virtual Visits are one of the ways that you can connect with loved ones in our care if you are not able to visit in person. To set up a virtual visit, please contact our Patient Experience Guide Team directly at 519-744-3311 ext. 1184 or email patientrelations@smgh.ca.

For questions about our care partner policy, please contact Patient Experience at 519-749-6578, ext. 6867 or by email at patientrelations@smgh.ca.