Family presence during COVID-19 - Important information for essential care partners/support people

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Updated: July 20 2022

Nova Scotia Health is gradually easing essential care partner, support person and caregiver restrictions. 

An essential care partner (ECP) is a person(s) who provides physical, psychological and emotional support, as deemed important by a patient, resident, or client. An ECP is different from a social visitor or a paid support worker.  Most often, they are family or close friends of the patient who typically know the patient’s health history, lifestyle, and personal values.  All patients may choose who are designated to partner in their care and this may include: family, non-family caregivers, support people, friends, power of attorney, and/ or substitute decision makers.

Effective June 28, essential care partners/support people are permitted to visit or accompany patients in the following situations:

  • Three Essential Care Partners/Support Persons at a time for: 

    • palliative care and other patients nearing end of life  

    • patients receiving medical assistance in dying (MAiD) 

  • Two Essential Care Partners/ Support Persons at a time for:

    • children and youth under 19 admitted to hospital, or having day surgery 

    • patients in intensive care units and critically ill patients in emergency departments 

    • patients in labour and giving birth 

  • One Essential Care Partner/ Support Person at a time for:

    • children and youth under 19 in outpatient settings

    • hospital inpatients 

    • patients in emergency departments

    • prenatal visits, including ultrasounds

    • ambulatory care clinics, appointments, or procedures

    • patients with COVID-19 infection (additional measures may be required)  

Please note: no general visitation is permitted within Nova Scotia Health facilities. Only people who have been identified by a patient as an essential care partner (support person, caregiver) can visit a patient in hospital.

If you feel unwell or have felt unwell in the past 48 hours, please do not visit. 

If you or someone you have had contact with has had COVID-19 infection in the past 10 days, please do not visit.

*Additional support people may be permitted for compassionate reasons. Please speak to the care team.  

Frequently asked questions

Who is an essential care partner (primary support person or family caregiver)?
 
An essential care partner (ECP) is a support person whose presence is considered essential to the safety and well-being of a patient while they are in the hospital.  An ECP is different from a social visitor or a paid support worker.  Most often, they are family or close friends of the patient who typically know the patient’s health history, lifestyle, and personal values.  All patients may choose who are designated to partner in their care and this may include: family, non-family caregivers, support people, friends, power of attorney, and/ or substitute decision makers.
 
How many essential care partners/support people is an inpatient permitted? 
For most hospital inpatients, only one essential care partner is permitted to visit at a time. This includes patients with a COVID-19 infection. However, the ECP may be required to follow additional precautions while in hospital.

Palliative care and other patients nearing end of life including patients receiving medical assistance in dying may have three (or more) support people at a time. The number is to be determined on a case-by-case basis by the clinical team, who will make every effort possible to safely accommodate the requested number of individuals to be present.

Patients in intensive care units, as well as critically ill patients in the emergency department, labour and birth and children and youth under 19 admitted to hospital are permitted to have two designated support people at a time. 

Please note: Further restrictions may apply during an outbreak of COVID-19.
 
Does my support person have to be vaccinated?
No. Proof of vaccination is no longer required for essential care partners. 

I have an appointment/test/procedure? Can I bring a support person with me?
Patients coming to hospital for cancer care, emergency, or ambulatory care clinics, appointments or produces are permitted to have one support person accompany them.

What options are there for me to connect with my loved one?
Technology is available to allow virtual involvement of family and loved ones with patients in hospital. In cases where support people are not permitted, care teams will make every effort to support virtual visits.  Please discuss this option with your loved one’s care team. 
 
What can I expect when I arrive at a hospital to visit a patient or accompany a patient to an appointment? 
All essential care partners/support people will be screened at the entrance. If they are an approved essential care partner/support person, they will be asked whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms, had contact with anyone who has COVID-19, or are waiting for COVID-19 test results for symptoms or potential exposure. If they answer yes to any of these questions, they will not be able to enter the hospital. 

The approved essential care partner will also be asked to clean their hands, wear a mask, and to follow safe physical distancing. 
 
Who decides who the patient’s visitor/support persons will be? 
The patient, or patient’s substitute decision maker, will identify the essential care partners/ support person(s). 
 
Are appointments required for visiting a loved one? 
Appointments are not required. 
 
Are children permitted to visit a loved one? 
The essential care partner must be at least 16 years old. Some exceptions may be made for compassionate reasons. 

 

Important information for essential care partners, family caregivers and primary support people

Visitor restrictions are in place at all Nova Scotia Health hospitals to protect our vulnerable patients and staff and limit the spread of COVID-19. We understand how difficult these restrictions are for patients and families and how important it is to have loved ones present while a patient is in the hospital.

The following measures will help ensure patient, staff and visitor safety. All essential care partners/support people must:

  • be feeling well at the date and time of the visit
  • be screened upon entry - anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or are supposed to be self-isolating will not be permitted to enter
  • wear a mask covering their nose and mouth at all times. Some areas require medical masks.
  • maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet) from staff and others, except your loved one
  • wash their hands when entering and leaving the hospital and when entering and leaving the patient’s room
  • go directly to and from the patient’s room, or visit location, and remain there for the duration of the visit

Procedures may vary by site and inpatient unit. If you have questions or concerns please speak with the care team or contact Patient Relations at 1-844-884-4177.