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Changes to hospital visitor policy to protect vulnerable patients

Wednesday, July 20, 2022   Posted in: Signatory Notice Board By: Administrator With tags: health, services

Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury media release: 19th July 2022

To ease pressure on the health system and protect vulnerable and older patients, from 7am on Wednesday 20th July, temporary changes to Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury’s visitor policy take effect at the district’s hospitals and health centres.

During the past two weeks, there has been a significant increase in COVID-19 cases on top of other respiratory illnesses – resulting in a larger proportion of our population and health workforce unwell or looking after whānau at home. While this isn’t unexpected in winter, we are seeing a far greater impact, earlier than usual, across hospitals and primary care.

Becky Hickmott, Incident Management Controller for the Omicron outbreak says that to protect our vulnerable patients, we are tightening our visitor restrictions and enforcing a ‘no mask, no entry’ policy.

“Children and young people under the age of 16 will not be allowed into Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury facilities, unless the visit is prearranged on compassionate grounds. This is because medical masks are less likely to fit under 16s well and children are less likely to be able to wear them correctly for the duration of a visit. Anyone who looks like they might be under 16, but isn’t, should bring some photo ID with them as proof of age.

“From tomorrow morning you will need to mask up and keep your mask on at all times while inside any of our facilities, and we have increased the minimum age of visitors to one person aged 16 or over to visit each patient,” Ms Hickmott says.

Visiting hours for Christchurch Hospital are also being reduced to between 3 and 8pm to allow patients more time to rest and recover and ease pressure on health workers, with a significant proportion of the workforce currently unwell or looking after whānau at home due to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Entry to Canterbury hospitals and health centres will be via main entrances only.

“Given we expect sustained pressure on health services to continue throughout winter, it will help if everyone does their bit to help us get through the cooler months. Our best protection this winter is to be up to date with influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations, which can help reduce the need for hospitalisation, along with the other precautions of staying home when sick, getting tested when you have flu-like symptoms, wearing masks as directed, and regularly washing hands.”

New visitor guidelines

  • One visitor at a time may visit a patient in our facilities. Visitors must be aged 16 or over.
  • Please phone and talk to the ward’s Charge Nurse to discuss any exceptions to this on compassionate grounds before you come to hospital to visit.
  • No eating or drinking while visiting a patient (i.e. you need to keep your mask on at all times when in our hospitals and health centres, except in cafes and areas designated for eating/drinking).

You must NOT visit our facilities if you:

  • are a household contact of a COVID-19 positive case;
  • are COVID-19 positive; or
  • are unwell.

Please stay home if you have a tummy bug or cold or flu/COVID-19-like symptoms (even if you’ve tested negative for COVID-19).

Information on mask wearing

  • Surgical/medical masks must be worn at all times inside all of our facilities and are provided at the front entrance if people don’t have them.
  • Note that the need to wear a mask at all times in our facilities also applies to people with mask exemptions as the health and safety of our patients is our top priority.
  • Even if you have a mask exemption, you won’t be able to enter any Te Whatu Ora facilities without a mask. If you are unable to visit, please call the Charge Nurse of the ward you want to visit, and staff will do their best to facilitate a phone or video call as an alternative.
  • As is the case now, on some wards, you will be required to wear an N95 mask to enter.

No visitors for patients with COVID-19

  • COVID-19 positive patients cannot be visited other than on exceptional compassionate grounds agreed by the Charge Nurse Manager. Please phone the ward to arrange a phone or video call as an alternative. 

Find out more about the new visitors’ rules at Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury sites, including exceptions.

Reminder about getting free RATs and masks

You can now pick up supplies of free RATs and masks from community testing centres and participating pharmacies. You don’t need to have symptoms to get free RATs.

Please still order RATs online wherever possible or by calling 0800 222 478.

Check Healthpoint for a list of pharmacies distributing free RATs - as not all pharmacies are participating.

Find your nearest community based testing/RAT and mask collection centres.

P2/N95 masks are available for people who are at higher risk of hospitalisation if they get COVID-19.

More COVID-19 vaccine options

For adults aged 18 and over who wish to have a different COVID-19 booster vaccine option, Novavax and AstraZeneca are now available to book as a second booster at least six months after a first booster.

While Pfizer continues to be the preferred vaccine, the alternative boosters will be available from 14th July for priority groups.

Learn about the eligibility criteria for a second COVID-19 vaccine booster.

Second boosters are free and are important for our most vulnerable people as we go through winter. Staying up to date with the recommended COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to protect you from the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation or death from COVID-19.

Find out where you can get your COVID-19 booster dose.

AstraZeneca boosters require a prescription and you can get this for free either from a GP or from a participating vaccination centre.

Keep to date with your other vaccinations

It’s also time to see if you are winter ready and ensure your other vaccinations are up to date such as flu and MMR (measles). Your family doctor can help, and many vaccinations can be done at your local pharmacy. 

If you’re in Christchurch, join us at our community vaccination events and stay for kai, colouring competitions and spot prizes. You can get both COVID-19 and MMR vaccinations if you need them. Free flu vaccinations are also available for those in the eligible groups.

Check if you’re eligible for a free flu jab.