St. Mary’s expanding access for Care Partners with shift to proof of vaccination

October 20th, 2021

Kitchener, ON | October 20, 2021 – St. Mary’s General Hospital is expanding access for Care Partners to visit with loved ones while in hospital. To enable the increased visits with patients while reducing potential health risks, St. Mary’s will require proof of vaccination or a medical or legislated exemption, along with identification for Care Partners. The policy comes into effect November 9, 2021, in alignment with the final milestone of the mandatory staff vaccination policy announced last month and follows similar protocols implemented across hospitals in Ontario.

“Care Partners are integral members of a patient’s care team and play an important role in their healing journey. It is our responsibility as healthcare professionals to balance the wellbeing of our patients with the health and safety of everyone and this policy allows us to do that,” says Lee Fairclough, president, St. Mary’s General Hospital.

“Mandatory vaccinations within the hospital puts one more layer of protection around everyone so that Care Partners, physicians, staff and volunteers can work together to support the patient, safely. Through the enhanced protection that this additional measure will provide, St. Mary’s will be able to welcome more Care Partners into the hospital which is a very positive thing for our patients’ overall wellbeing.”

Care Partners and visitors provide comfort to patients while in-hospital, but their roles vary greatly. A Care Partner is someone identified as being essential to a patient’s wellbeing providing direction in their care and whose presence enhances and contributes positively to their healing journey. A visitor provides company and well-wishes to patients. While St. Mary’s welcomes Care Partners to the hospital to support patients, visitors are not yet permitted. This policy works to limit the number of individuals coming onsite to protect especially those most vulnerable from potential health risks associated with COVID-19.

Until November 9, when the new policy takes effect, Care Partners will be able to continue visiting patients at St. Mary’s regardless of their vaccination status. Beginning November 9, everyone—physicians, staff, volunteers, contractors and Care Partners—will be required to be fully vaccinated to come into St. Mary’s. Although those providing care will be required to be vaccinated, anyone seeking care—regardless of their vaccination status—will receive care.

There are exceptions to the policy where Care Partners may be provided an exemption by St. Mary’s to provide comfort and care for a patient requiring emergency, critical or palliative care, for example. For anyone not able to visit a loved one in-person, St. Mary’s will continue to support virtual visits through the Patient Experience team. Virtual visits were implemented during the pandemic as a way for patients to remain connected to loved ones who were not able visit in person. Since then, virtual visits have helped provide comfort, allowed family to meet with the patient’s care team, and even attend birthday parties and weddings safely through technology. Virtual visits and support will continue to be an important way in which Care Partners, loved ones and visitors can connect with patients while in hospital, safely, from anywhere in the world.

“When the pandemic hit, we had to reimagine many of the ways in which we could support a patient’s healing journey knowing that at that time it meant being separated from loved ones and Care Partners. Like so many others, we leaned into technology and found new ways of staying connected and for our patients, they were able to visit with loved ones and family through an iPad. Virtual visits continue to play an important role in our patients’ journeys and something that we remain committed to supporting that allows someone regardless of their vaccination status or where they may be in the world to stay connected.

“We must do everything that we can to protect our patients and staff. This policy has been developed after much thought, consideration and consultation with St. Mary’s Patient and Family Advisory Committee, our Clinical Services Leadership Team and board. No person will be denied care based on their vaccination status—that does not change—nor does the fact that regardless of vaccination status, everyone, who is able to, must continue to wear the appropriate PPE while onsite. We remain committed to supporting our patients and their Care Partners as we work towards the same goal of a successful, safe healing journey for everyone. This is one more step that we are taking to protect everyone; that has and will always be our first priority,” says Fairclough.

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More Information:

Dayna Giorgio
Manager, Communications
St. Mary’s General Hospital
dgiorgio@smgh.ca | 519-895-6540

Background

Located in the heart of Kitchener, Ontario, St. Mary’s is the second-largest acute care hospital in the St. Joseph’s Health System and a Regional Cardiac Care Centre. We proudly serve the residents of Waterloo, Wellington County, and extend our reach to Dufferin, Grey-Bruce and beyond.

Our nearly 2,000 staff, physicians and volunteers provide excellent, compassionate care to hundreds of thousands of patients and families every year in our core areas of clinical focus:

  • Cardiac Care (Regional Cardiac Centre)
  • Respiratory Care (Level 1 Thoracic Surgery Centre)
  • Outpatient (Day) Surgery
  • General Medicine
  • 24/7 Emergency Care

St. Mary’s core programs and services are provided at our main hospital site. Our community-based programs and services are offered at locations throughout Waterloo Region.

Learn more about Our Mission, Values & History and the future of care at St. Mary’s.