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Bluewater Health giving patients authority to allow some hospital visitors 24/7 access

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Cathy Dobson

Bluewater Health has made big changes in its visitor policy in a bid to provide patients with more family support.

Family members who are pre-approved by a patient are now allowed 24/7 access to all departments. A patient’s family is anyone identified as significant in his or her life, said Dr. Michel Haddad, the hospital’s chief of staff.

“Over and over again it’s been shown that family members who can come anytime without (visiting hour) restrictions can be an important part of the health-care team,” he said.

“Patients get a lot of comfort from having their loved ones with them, and it’s a good thing for the treatment team because they can involve families more in patient care.”

Visiting hours at Bluewater Health in Sarnia and Petrolia are traditionally 11 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. daily. Three years ago, the hospital began allowing around-the-clock visiting in the intensive care unit.

“We were ahead of our time with that and received accolades for doing it,” Haddad said. Now pre-approved visitors can stay by a patient’s side 24/7 in all departments.

Such visitors are identified by the patient at the time of admission. Visitors who are not pre-approved cannot be in the hospital after visiting hours.

“There are logistical issues to ensure the hospital continues to be a safe place for patients and staff,” Haddad said. “Now, after hours, nursing staff and security will have to tend to the phones and the doors to make sure each visitor is OK.

“But it is worth the extra effort.”

Additional noise during the night hasn’t been a concern, he added. In the new policy’s first month there have been no complaints.

“Our hospital is spacious and our patient rooms are large. People are respectful,” Dr. Haddad said.

“The number of people will be determined with input from the other patients if they are in the room.”

Round-the-clock hospital visitation makes sense, especially in a community with a lot of shift workers, he added.

“The patient is the one who controls who visits. If they say only one person can see them, we’ll respect that.

“We want this to be a win-win for everyone.”

After 8:30 p.m., pre-approved visitors should use the front door of the Sarnia hospital, which has an intercom with direct access to security staff that can open the door.

In Petrolia, after-hours visitors can enter through the emergency department and nursing staff will answer the intercom.

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