London Children's Hospital not alone in barring in-person gifts to patients

A policy that will end Leo Larizza's 34-year tradition of visiting patients at London's Children's Hospital with gifts is similar to rules in place at two other Ontario children's hospitals.

In a story that broke Wednesday and stirred outrage online, London Health Sciences Centre confirmed that Larizza will no longer be allowed to visit patients at the hospital to give them gifts, something he's been doing since 1985 through his charity TLC Foundation. 

LHSC says Larizza is not allowed on hospital property because he won't comply with the hospital's policy for accepting in-kind gifts to patients. Under this policy, gifts are only accepted through the hospital's Children's Health Foundation, which then distributes the gifts to the children.

The hospital says Larizza can still donate gifts, but won't be allowed to donate them in person to patients during their stay at the hospital.

LHSC has posted a statement on their website explaining the policy.

Larizza has said the policy doesn't make sense, because he only visits patients if their parents request it.

And while LHSC's rules around gift-giving they may have stirred controversy, they aren't unique among Ontario hospitals.

Both the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto and CHEO, formerly known as the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, a pediatric health and research centre in Ottawa, have similar policies around in-kind donations to patients.

A statement from SickKids said the policy is in place for the same reasons LHSC cites: to ensure infection control and uphold patient confidentiality. 

Dave Chidley

A spokesperson with CHEO said their approach to gifts in-kind is in line with LHSC's policy

In its statement, LHSC says it has "a deep appreciation" to the TLC Foundation for its generosity over the years but says "it is imperative that we balance the health, safety, and privacy of our most vulnerable patients — infants and children — with the great generosity of donor organizations such as the TLC Foundation."

Hospital answers questions about gift policy

Part of LHSC's statement includes answers to questions about the policy. 

Why can't TLC deliver gifts personally to patients?

"We are aligning our practice to that of many organizations that support the needs and wishes of children who are ill. As a health-care organization, it is imperative that we balance the health, safety, and privacy of our most vulnerable patients — infants and children — with the great generosity of donor organizations such as the TLC Foundation. As such, donors are not allowed to distribute gifts directly to patients and families and we are simply asking the TLC Foundation to follow the same policy and process that we ask of all of our generous gift in-kind donors."

If families are asking Mr. Larizza to visit and bring gifts, how is this a privacy issue?

"We have to balance the valued feedback from patients and families who want to engage the TLC Foundation with our obligation to protect the health, safety, privacy, and wishes of all patients and families. Ultimately, this decision reflects a desire to ensure compliance with our policies that are designed to protect the health, safety, and privacy of all patients at Children's Hospital."

Will families be permitted to approve Mr. Larizza as a visitor specifically for purposes of visiting their child? 

"As Mr. Larizza is acting as an agent of his Foundation during these visits and has indicated that he will not abide by our policy, he will not be permitted to visit children in the hospital."