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Home Canadian News N.S. hospital visitor rules add emotional toll during pandemic

N.S. hospital visitor rules add emotional toll during pandemic

The IWK Health Centre in Halifax says it’s seeing less foot traffic in public areas as it helps families through tough new visitor restrictions that go against the principles of the children’s hospital.

Pediatric patients can only have one support person, which means parents and guardians have to choose who stays, and they can’t take alternating shifts. Women in labour also have to choose just one person to be by their side.

“We know that the current visitor restrictions and support person restrictions at the IWK are very troubling for families,” Annette Elliott Rose, vice-president of clinical care and chief nurse executive at the hospital, said in an interview Friday.

The hospital said it’s following guidance from public health, and the no-visitor policy will have to be in place until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

“We are really asking patients and families to work together and try their very best to consider who would be the best support person for longer periods of time,” she said.

Annette Elliott Rose says staff at the IWK Health Centre are also struggling with the limitations on visitors, but they know it must be done to protect the hospital’s patients. (Robert Short/CBC)

Elliott Rose said these are exceptional circumstances, and the hospital is acknowledging that it’s very stressful for families.

“Some of these scenarios and directions are not aligned with the way the IWK usually provides services.”

As the children’s hospital for the Maritimes, families are travelling in for care and now face 14-day isolation orders if they cross the provincial border.

Those patients and their support person are being isolated in their rooms as much as possible, Elliott Rose said.

This week, the IWK is making slight adjustments to support those who smoke. First, they’ll be offered nicotine replacements.

“If that doesn’t work, then we’re escorting them to a spot where they may choose to smoke and giving them some time to do that,” Elliott Rose said.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has also enforced tough rules. It’s only allowing a patient to have a visitor if they are nearing the end of their life.

All other patients will be admitted alone. Both hospitals are encouraging patients and families to connect electronically where possible.

“We recognize this approach is not ideal, including for health-care workers who pride themselves on being family-centred in their approach to healing,” the health authority said in a statement. “But this is the same approach being taken in hospitals across Canada.”

Elliott Rose said it’s been emotional for staff who have to enforce the rules, knowing it will protect the greater population.

“The staff and physicians are feeling this as well,” she said. “There’s an incredible amount of change in the health system as we plan and respond to the pandemic. At the same time, there’s a lot of compassion and commitment and lots of good energy from the team as we work together.”

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