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Visitor and caregiver information

Last updated: October 6, 2021

We know how important visitors are to our patients, and it is our priority to keep patients, staff and visitors safe.

In light of declining cases of COVID-19 in Ontario and increased accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccines, as of Friday, July 16, 2021, we are changing our approach for designated essential care partners (approved essential visitors).

All inpatients will be permitted a daily three-hour window for visiting with up to two designated essential care partners. The designated essential care partners may visit daily at the same time during this designated three-hour window, which will be scheduled in advance between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Only outpatients with significant need will be permitted companions.

The revised guidelines do not apply to the Veterans Centre and Palliative Care Units, Emergency Department or units in our DAN Women & Babies Program (Birthing Unit and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). For information on these and our other Sunnybrook sites' visitor policies, please see below.

As a visitor, you have an important role to play in keeping everyone safe — you must continue to wear a mask while in the hospital and:

  • Practice hand hygiene
  • Not eat or drink if present in a patient room
  • Use public washrooms (not patient washrooms)
  • Visitors who do not follow these practices to keep our patients and staff safe will be asked to leave immediately.

Mandatory screening

When coming to the hospital, as a patient or visitor/designated essential care partner, you will be asked these questions:

  1. Have you tested positive for COVID-19 or been told to self-isolate in the past 14 days?
  2. Are you awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test?
  3. Have you been in contact with someone in the past 14 days who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19?
  4. Have you been out of the country in the last 14 days and have not received two doses of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine 14 days prior to entering Canada?
    • Please note: Visitors who have been outside of Canada within the last 14 days will be required to provide proof of full vaccination 14 days prior to entering Canada or have documentation confirming an exemption from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

  5. Do you have any COVID-19 symptoms?

For the safety of patients and staff, visitors who answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions will not be permitted to enter the hospital.

Please note: As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, so will our visitor policy. We are carefully preparing for more essential care partner access; however, we may be required to scale back our current policy at any time, in the interest of keeping our patients, visitors and staff safe.

Visitor policy changes:

The rules may change if:

  • COVID-19 conditions change in the community
  • Your loved one moves to another unit
  • Your loved one’s condition changes

Keeping in touch:

Encourage your loved one to keep in contact with you, if they can. Hospital iPads are available for temporary use – please ask the care team if your loved one would like to be supported to use one to video call you. Please also identify one person to be the main contact for the health-care team. The patient’s main contact will be notified if there is a significant change with your loved one. Visit mychart.ca to learn more about Sunnybrook’s online health record and how you may be able to see some of your loved one’s medical updates.

In-patients

Patients who are admitted to the hospital for care

In-patients are permitted to have two designated essential care partners (aged 16+) visit them in hospital daily for one three-hour window. Visits must be pre-arranged. The two designated visitors may visit daily at the same time during this three-hour window.

The in-patient (or their substitute decision maker) should tell the care team who their two essential care partners will be. The patient’s visitors will be added to the hospital’s visitor list and they will be able to visit the patient in the hospital during a three-hour window each day.

No alternate essential care partners are permitted to visit. This means that if the two designated essential care partners cannot visit, no other person is permitted to visit in their place.

The designated essential care partners are welcome to visit the patient daily at a pre-scheduled time, for a maximum of three hours, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

If you have been approved as an essential care partner for your loved one, please schedule your visits with our Visitor Liaisons at visitors@sunnybrook.ca or 416-480-4100.

In special circumstances, exceptions to the above policy may be made for patients who:

  • Are under 18 years of age
  • Are approaching end of life within less than two weeks
  • Have a significant cognitive impairment

In these circumstances, please connect with the patient’s care team directly for more information.

If you are an approved essential care partner, you must practice physical distancing (keep 2 metres/6 feet distance from others), wear a mandatory mask or face covering, and practice hand hygiene while in the hospital. If you do not follow these steps, you will be asked to leave the hospital immediately.

Area-specific in-patient visitor guidelines

The above visitor policy is in effect for Sunnybrook's Bayview campus (exceptions listed below). Please view the below pages for visitor guidelines for excepted areas:

Outpatients

Patients coming to the hospital for appointments or procedures

One essential care partner can accompany a patient to their outpatient appointment/procedure/treatment in the following circumstances:

  • Patient or staff safety may be compromised without the care partner present.
  • Support is required for mobility or cognitive impairments (e.g. wandering/falls risk, sensory impairment, or requiring support attending to personal care).
  • Discussions of life-altering care decisions or goals of care will take place.
  • Undue hardship to the patient or visitor/companion will occur if the companion is not present (rationale required)

Essential care partners must be approved by the patient’s care team or doctor’s office before attending an appointment/procedure.

If you are the loved one of a patient who meets the above criteria, please connect with the patient’s care team to be added to the hospital’s visitor list.

If you are an approved essential care partner, you must practice physical distancing (keep 2 metres/6 feet distance from others), wear a mandatory mask or face covering, and practice hand hygiene while in the hospital. If you do not follow these steps, you will be asked to leave the hospital immediately.

We understand this is a challenging time for our outpatients who are unable to have a companion accompany them to hospital appointments. Physical space in our waiting rooms, patient care areas, hallways, etc. is limited. In order to ensure safe physical distancing, it is important that we continue to limit traffic to those who need to be here the most. We are looking forward to welcoming back all visitors and companions once it is safe to do so.

Area-specific outpatient visitor guidelines

Frequently asked questions

How can I become an essential care partner for my loved one?

In-patients

In-patients are permitted to have two designated essential care partners (aged 16+) visit them in hospital daily during a three-hour window.

The in-patient (or their substitute decision maker) should tell the care team who their two essential care partners will be. The patient’s visitors will be added to the hospital’s visitor list and they will be able to visit the patient in the hospital.

Once added to the visitor list, the essential care partners can begin scheduling visits by emailing visitors@sunnybrook.ca or calling 416-480-4100.

To reach the patient’s care team, you can either call them directly, or call patient inquiry at 416-480-4246 and ask to be forwarded to the patient’s unit/care team.

Outpatients

Only outpatients with significant need will be permitted companions. If your loved one requires the support of an essential care partner during their outpatient appointment (see examples and criteria above, or here for Odette Cancer Centre patients), please connect with your loved one’s care team to be added to the hospital’s visitor list. An outpatient must meet these criteria in order for the essential care partner request to be approved.

To reach the patient’s care team, you can either call them directly, or call patient inquiry at 416-480-4246 and ask to be forwarded to the patient’s doctor’s office.

Outpatients may only have one designated essential care partner, and the essential care partner must be approved by the patient’s care team or doctor’s office before accompanying the patient to the hospital.

What do I need to know before I visit?

  • Remember: An essential care partner must be approved by the patient’s care team before scheduling hospital visits (in-patients) or accompanying a patient to an appointment (outpatients). Please review this process above.
  • Each inpatient may designate two essential care partners who may visit during a daily three-hour window. Visits outside of this window will not be permitted.
  • Essential care partners must schedule visits prior to visiting the hospital.
  • Visiting hours at the Bayview campus are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (with exceptions for patients at end of life and parents of babies in the NICU) for no longer than three hours per visit each day.
  • Essential care partners should sign in with their name, date/time and phone number (in case these are required for contact tracing purposes).
  • All visitors will be screened for risk factors and symptoms of COVID-19 at the entrance.
  • All visitors must practice hand hygiene; wear a mask in all areas of the hospital including hallways, washrooms etc. (or other personal protective equipment as required); not eat or drink in a patient’s room; and use public, not patient, washrooms. If visitors refuse to comply with the guidelines in place to keep everyone safe, they will be asked to leave the hospital.
  • No in/out privileges.
  • Gloves should not be worn in the hospital.

When can I visit my loved one who is an in-patient at the hospital?

Inpatients may designate two essential care partners to visit each day during a three-hour window upon admission to hospital. Normal COVID-19 visiting hours at the Bayview campus are 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Times may vary between units (ie. Palliative Care Unit, Veteran’s Centre) and depends on a patient’s individual circumstances, needs, and the patient's care unit.

If you have been approved as an essential care partner for your loved one, please schedule hospital visits by emailing visitors@sunnybrook.ca or calling 416-480-4100. We welcome essential care partner visits each day for a maximum of three hours per visit. Please note that visits must be scheduled.

How can I appeal a decision that has been made regarding my situation or status as an essential care partner?

In order to ensure the safety of our patients, staff and visitors, decisions regarding essential care partners and visitation must be made within Sunnybrook’s current guidelines and criteria. We understand limits to visitation are difficult and frustrating for patients and their loved ones, however, they are a necessary precaution put in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19, and to help keep our most vulnerable patients safe.

Please be assured that decisions surrounding visitation are made with careful consideration of the unique medical conditions and circumstances of each patient.

If you would like a visiting decision for an in-patient to be re-considered, please contact the Patient Care Manager of the patient’s care unit, or a member of the in-patient care team and request an appeal. Please note that not all requests are eligible for an appeal. You will be updated in a timely manner on the outcome of your request.

To make an appeal request regarding an outpatient, please contact the patient’s doctor’s office or clinic.

If your situation does not meet the criteria for an appeal, or if your appeal is denied, it can be reconsidered in the following circumstances:

  • There is a substantive clinical change in the patient’s medical status
  • The patient is relocated to another in-patient unit or Sunnybrook campus (St. John’s Rehab, Reactivation Care Centre, or The Holland Centre).

We appreciate that not all of the decisions made in response to an appeal request will be the outcome you were hoping for, however, these decisions are final. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

I'm an approved essential care partner for a Sunnybrook patient. Where do I enter the hospital during my scheduled visit(s)?

Why aren't all visitors able to visit patients right now?

We understand that our visiting guidelines are difficult for our patients, their loved ones, and the rest of the care team. We look forward to welcoming back all visitors to Sunnybrook as soon as it is safe. 

Factors that our infection prevention and control teams are monitoring include:

  • Adequate supply of personal protective equipment (masks) to provide our patients and visitors
  • Adequate space in our waiting rooms, patient care areas, common areas, etc. to allow for patients and visitors to physically distance
  • COVID-19 activity in the hospital and in the community.

We continue to monitor the situation closely, and will continue to update our visitor policy as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

Are these guidelines in effect at all of Sunnybrook's campuses?

These visitor guidelines are in effect for Sunnybrook's Bayview campus (exceptions listed below). Please view the below pages for visitor guidelines for excepted areas:

In-patients

Outpatients

    How do I visit someone at St. John's Rehab?

    Essential care partners may call their loved one’s unit at St. John’s Rehab directly from 8am to 4pm for assistance in scheduling a visit. Please visit St. John’s Rehab for additional information on visiting that campus.

    Can I visit a loved one in the Emergency Department?

    My loved one does not speak English. How will they understand what is going on if I cannot attend their appointments with them?

    Sunnybrook offers free, professional translation services for our patients. To learn more about how to set up this service for your loved one’s appointment, please visit our interpretation services page.

    I am dropping my loved one off for their outpatient appointment. Since I can't attend the appointment with them, what can I expect?

    Here's what to expect when dropping off your loved one for their appointment:

    • When you arrive at the hospital you will be greeted by a screener. The screener will ask a series of questions before entry related to COVID-19 safety.
    • Directions to the appointment location will be provided if needed.
    • A porter will take your family member to and from their appointment if they need assistance.
    • It is recommended that, if possible, you wait in your vehicle for your family member so you can be physically distanced from others.

    Why does the visitor policy at Sunnybrook keep changing?

    As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, so does our visitor policy. We may be required to scale back our current policy at any time, in the interest of keeping our patients, visitors and staff safe.

    If a family hires a professional care worker to augment hospital care, does that person count as an essential care partner?

    Each in-patient may designate one essential care partner. If a professional care worker is hired, they would count as the one essential care partner. No alternate essential care partner is permitted to visit

    What is a “patient under investigation” or “PUI”?

    A patient under investigation, or PUI, is a person who has symptoms of COVID-19 and is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.

    I’m a designated essential care partner – can I still visit if my loved one is determined to be a patient under investigation?

    You may not visit until the patient under investigation is cleared by their medical team. If you have any questions about whether you may visit, please speak to the health care team.

    When do you think Sunnybrook will open up to more family/companions to outpatient appointments?

    Physical space in our waiting rooms, patient care areas and hallways, etc. is limited. In order to ensure safe physical distancing and ensure we have enough space to see as many patients and provide as much care as we can, it is important that we continue to limit traffic to those who need to be here the most.

    Unfortunately, this means that only in certain situations, such as when an outpatient has wandering behaviour or an appointment where life-altering care discussion will take place, can an outpatient have a have companion (please check Sunnynet for all criteria).

    In order to open up to more companions, the Visitor Restoration Task Force continuously reviews key factors including

    • The degree of community spread and assessment of risk
    • Recommendations from Toronto Region
    • Recommendations from Sunnybrook's Infection Prevention and Control department

    We are also looking at ways to increase the number of companions with initiatives such as such as plexiglass in larger seating areas and scheduling patient appointments to enable more opportunity for companions.

    Information for loved ones 

    Dropping food, clothing and other items for your loved one in hospital

    While family members and loved ones cannot visit patients, clothing and other items can be dropped off for patients at the following times and locations:

    • Bayview campus: M1 entrance between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Holland Centre: front door screening desk between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday
    • Veterans Centre: L-wing entrance screening desk between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday
    • St. John’s Rehab: Main entrance between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday to Friday
    • Reactivation Care Centre – Church Site: Please note that the RCC location is unable to accept drop offs of food or clothing for patients at this time.

    You will need to be screened first, and you will not be allowed to enter the hospital. Place items in a bag labelled with patient’s name and unit; the bags will be delivered to units at regular intervals. Anything dropped off outside of these hours listed above will be delivered the following day.

    A note about food items

    Please note that only pre-packaged, non-perishable commercially prepared food items, or single-serving homemade food items, will be accepted. Food items must not require refrigeration or heating, and must be in a disposable container (containers and any leftovers will be thrown out). Please note that we cannot guarantee the food will get to the patient on the same day or at a particular time.

    Flower delivery

    There are no flower restrictions related specifically to COVID-19 at this time, however flower delivery is restricted on units caring for more vulnerable patients, including:

    • M2 (CRCU + CVICU)
    • M4 NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)
    • B4 ICU (all rooms)
    • B5 ICU
    • C2
    • C3
    • C6 (Flowers are allowed on the unit, but not in patient rooms)
    • Complex Malignant Hematology (normally located on D4 but has been moved to B3 temporarily)
    • D4 ICU
    • D6
    • D7

    Stay connected with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic through telephone calls and video chats

    While we have restricted visitors to the hospital, we want to ensure that you stay connected with your loved one who is in the hospital during this time.

    Below are are some ways you can stay connected.

    Virtual visits – iPads available:

    The hospital has iPads available for patients who do not have their own device. Please let your loved one's social worker, spiritual & religious care provider or the nursing team know you're interested in a virtual visit. We can help set up a “visit” on a mobile device that is carefully cleaned between uses.

    Telephone calls:

    There are no fees for local calls on bedside phones.

    Gift shop delivery:

    Sunnybrook Gift Shop is open and it delivers to patient rooms at our Bayview Campus and Holland Centre. Send your loved one something to let them know you are thinking of them (ear buds and phone chargers are also available). 

    Other:

    There are other programs in development. Please check back here for updates.

    How can I send a gift to a loved one?

    The Sunnybrook Gift Shop offers free delivery to patients at our Bayview Campus and Holland Centre. Order your chosen gift online and let your loved one know you are thinking of them.

    Information for patients

    » View information about hospital entryway restrictions, and get answers to general questions