ACT Health is easing visitor access restrictions in Canberra hospitals from today (5 June). The new arrangements allow patients to have up to two visitors per day, but only one visitor will be allowed with the patient at any one time to ensure physical distancing requirements are met.
For children in hospital who are aged up to 17 years, one parent or carer can now be present at all times, with an additional visitor welcome to join them for up to one hour each day.
For women who are admitted for maternity or birthing-related care, two support people can be present. Arrangements should be pre-planned with the relevant midwifery and obstetric staff during antenatal care.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said visitor restrictions have been difficult for patients, visitors and staff.
“The decision to restrict visitors to our health services was a difficult but important one to make, ensuring we are able to protect the health and safety of patients, staff and their loved ones.
“We know this has been a difficult time for patients who want to be with their family and loved ones during their stay at hospital and I thank the community for their patience and understanding during this challenging period.
“Staff across our health facilities have been working incredibly hard to keep our community safe. They have faced the challenges of COVID-19 with compassion and professionalism, with the safety and wellbeing of patients at the centre of everything they do,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
The Chief Executive Officer of Canberra Health Services and Deputy Health Controller Clinical Services, Bernadette McDonald, said that the careful ongoing management of visitor access to Canberra’s health facilities was to ensure staff, patients and the broader community were protected from the transmission of COVID-19.
“This policy has been developed in close consultation with clinical experts and health care consumers,” Ms McDonald said.
“Ultimately, the fewer non-essential visitors we have on-site in Canberra hospitals during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the better for our ongoing response and recovery.
“We’ve done so much great work across our community to stop the spread and flatten the curve and it’s important we continue to protect our very vulnerable people needing care.
“As we’ve said since we implemented restrictions in March, we will continue to make compassionate exemptions to the visitor policy on a case-by-case basis, and in consultation with clinical staff.”
Social distancing principles would still apply to all carers and visitors, and health providers would continue to take down information about those entering hospitals to assist with future contact tracing if required.
“We are also reminding visitors that they should not visit a health facility if they are unwell, or if they have travelled overseas in the last 14 days or have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 14 days,” Ms McDonald said.
She also said that wherever possible, visitors are asked to not bring children with them.
The increased access will be carefully managed to ensure vulnerable Canberrans continue to be protected.
As visitors approach a health service for entry to visit their loved one, they will continue to be asked a series of screening questions and will also be asked to use the hand sanitiser.
For more information about the easing of restrictions is on the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website.