Norfolk, Haldimand hospitals ease visitor restrictions

·2 min read

Visitors are again welcome at hospitals in Simcoe and Hagersville now that COVID-19 outbreaks at both institutions have ended.

Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe and West Haldimand General Hospital in Hagersville announced Thursday that visitation will now be allowed seven days a week. There are no longer restrictions on the total number of daily visitors for in-patients, though the limit of one bedside visitor at a time remains in place.

Obstetrical patients and those receiving end-of-life care can have up to two visitors at a time.

All visitors to the two hospitals, regardless of vaccination status, must still self-screen for COVID-19, be masked at all times, practice physical distancing and not eat or drink inside.

Visitation was restricted to essential caregivers in early August after COVID-19 outbreaks were declared with days of each other at the two hospitals.

Haldimand-Norfolk’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Matt Strauss, tweeted about hospital visitor policies on Aug. 3, the day after Norfolk General announced its new restrictions.

As part of a tweet thread about how he would fix the “vicious circle” of “poor morale and high workloads” at Ontario hospitals, Strauss recommended lifting mask mandates for health-care workers and ending what he described as “punitive, mean-spirited visitor policies.”

“Nothing burns (health-care workers) out more than telling families they can’t see their loved ones, then getting yelled at by said families,” Strauss wrote.

“These policies protect no one.”

Strauss also recommended hospitals “stop the silly screening protocols” and redeploy staff currently handing out masks with “salad tongs” to patient care.

Strauss did not mention Norfolk General or West Haldimand General by name in his tweets.

In an emailed response to an interview request from The Spectator, Strauss declined to say whether he had communicated his views to the leadership of the hospitals in his health unit or recommended any changes to their visitation and screening policies.

“I am not going to speak about any particular hospitals in Ontario at this time,” he wrote. “My comments were about the provincial hospital system in general.”

Hospital CEO Todd Stepanuik declined to comment on Strauss’ tweets.

As of Wednesday, hospital occupancy in Haldimand-Norfolk was just shy of 84 per cent, with half the region’s 11 ICU beds occupied.

Five residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, though none were in intensive care.

Two residents died of COVID-19 over the past two weeks, bringing the total to 86 deaths directly caused by the virus since the pandemic began.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator