Beginning Oct. 4, patients in the province’s maternity units will be limited to one on-site support person, Alberta Health Services announced on Thursday.
This change is a direct result of the growing number of COVID cases and subsequent strain on resources that Alberta’s hospitals are facing.
A statement released by AHS reads, “We know the importance of having loved ones present during this time, and we understand how difficult this decision is for all involved … This reduction in designated support access is necessary to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff, and to support patient care as we manage increasing capacity challenges in our hospitals.”
This is not the first time AHS has limited support persons in hospital. On Sept. 20, emergency and urgent care patients were limited to only one support person while inpatients were limited to two, with only one person being allowed onsite at a time.
Dr. Gerry Prince, a family physician in Medicine Hat, agrees that the presence of support persons is an important aspect of patient success and recovery.
“We all need family support, especially during difficult times. When we’re vulnerable, or not well … it’s critical to have somebody there helping you,” he said. However, he cautions that with the current climate, support person reductions may be necessary.
“Our preference is, obviously, to have as much of that support as we can safely have,” Prince said. “The concern is that the more people we have coming and going, the higher the risks for both sides. Even with the screening we do, people can carry diseases before they know they even have them.
“Right now, the balance is what’s the risk of having more people coming in and out of the hospital both to other hospitalized patients and to the patients themselves; the mom, the baby and the family. It’s a tough balance.”
Prince also notes that limitations on visitors to the hospital helps to protect health-care workers by curbing the potential spread of COVID.
Maternity patients can request the presence of a second designated support person by contacting AHS. The requests will be considered on a “case-by-case basis,” AHS confirmed.
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News