Visitor info Book a COVID-19 test Book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Hospital  >  Care Programs  >  Integrated Community Program  >  Emergency care  >  Emergency department visitor information

Emergency department visitor information

To protect patients, families and staff from COVID-19, the Emergency Department (ED) only allows visits by “Essential Care Partners” (ECPs) for some patients and in exceptional circumstances, and if we can maintain physical distancing. Our ED is very small and conditions are always changing, therefore ensuring physical distancing is a challenge. We know how important visitors are to our patients; however, ED staff need to assess on a patient-by-patient basis when a visitor can safely be allowed.

What if I’m not eligible to visit as an Essential Care Partner?

During COVID-19 most people will not be eligible to have an ECP while they are in the ED. We realize this is difficult for our patients and families. Here are a few things that may help improve this experience:
  • Stay connected through MyChart – MyChart is a free, online health record system you can review while at home to stay connected to your loved ones health record and health care team. Sign up today!
  • If the patient is able to, and has a mobile phone, stay connected through calls and messaging – we have free WIFI available for our patients while in hospital (guest WIFI network: SW_guest; password: SunnybrookGuest).
  • Virtual visits – Sunnybrook has tablets for our teams to help patients connect with their friends and families through a virtual call. Inquire about a scheduled virtual visit when you are able to speak with the patient’s nurse, social worker or someone else on their care team.

What is an Essential Care Partner?

An ECP is one support person identified by the patient. The ECP must be a member of the patient’s support circle (e.g. family member, caregiver, friend, etc.). ECPs must be aged 16 or older.

Exceptional circumstances

  1. Patients in situations of vulnerability: Patient is under 18 years of age, and has cognitive impairment, significant developmental and/or intellectual disability, and/or patient is at significant risk of wandering and/or falls.
  2. Patients who are critically ill.
  3. Patients with a life-altering event: at end of life (within two weeks), giving birth, and/or to facilitate a goals of care or complex discharge conversation.
  4. Patients who are imminently dying (including due to withdrawal of care that could lead to imminent death).

In these exceptional circumstances, ONE ECP may be present. That person may be asked to leave the department after two hours, or sooner depending on the specific situation with the patient and the ED at that time. Exception: for patients who are imminently dying, visitors may be present two at a time to say goodbye and two visitors may be present at time of withdrawal of care and stay until patient passes.

Triage and registration

If deemed necessary by the ED team, one ECP may accompany the patient through triage and registration. During triage, we encourage the patient to designate and provide contact information for one person for the healthcare team to phone after the patient’s assessment (once they are inside the department) to include in their care plan.

Waiting rooms

After triage and registration, the ECP must leave the department (e.g. wait outside/in a car) while the patient is in the waiting room waiting to be brought inside the department.

Inside the department

Only in exceptional circumstances (see above) and if the patient is in a private room, will an ECP be allowed to enter the Emergency Department. Patients are sometimes moved within the department; if the patient is moved out of a private room, then the ECP will have to leave.

Rules for permitted ECPs

  1. ECP must have no symptoms of COVID-19, or other indications for self-isolation (such as recent travel).
  2. Please stay with the patient in their room, exiting only briefly if necessary to use the washroom.
  3. Wear a mask properly (covering both nose and mouth) and continuously. NO EXCEPTIONS. You will be asked to leave if this is not being done.
  4. Must wash hands frequently.
  5. Eating and drinking in the department are not allowed (as the mask must be removed for this).
  6. There are no in/out privileges and the ECP must be the same person throughout the patient’s stay.
  7. Please use a call bell if you need help.

Patients who are admitted to hospital from the Emergency Department

If the patient needs to be admitted (move up to an inpatient bed), then the patient’s new care team will determine if it is safe for them to have a visitor on that particular unit, taking into account their particular health situation and the policies and physical limitations of the unit. Please ask the Emergency Department team how to contact the inpatient team.

Please ask a member of the Emergency Department care team if you have questions about visitors. For more visitor information, please visit