New rules are in place for people wanting to visit in-patients at Nova Scotia hospitals.
In the province's eastern zone, no visits are permitted at four area hospitals that have reported outbreaks of COVID-19: St. Martha's hospital in Antigonish, Inverness Consolidated, New Waterford Consolidated and Northside General in North Sydney.
Remaining hospitals around the province are limited to one dedicated visitor per in-patient, while intensive care and critically ill patients, along with children under 19, are permitted two support people.
No visits are allowed for people who have COVID-19, or for patients staying in a hospital unit that has an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Exceptions may be made, especially in situations were people are receiving end-of-life care.
"These decisions are difficult," said Andrew Heighton, COVID-19 response director for the provincial health authority's eastern zone.
"When they're made, they're made for good reason, and it's to protect the staff and the patients from further spread."
On Thursday, Nova Scotia Health reported a new outbreak at Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital. Fewer than five patients at the facility have tested positive, said the province. Six additional cases were also reported in a ward at New Waterford Consolidated Hospital where there are now 11 patients who have tested positive.
Heighton said the visitation restrictions will likely remain in place for seven to 14 days, although changes are being reassessed daily.
When possible, technology will be used to virtually connect patients with their families or other support people.
Nova Scotia reported 745 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including 459 cases in central zone, 128 cases in eastern zone, 95 cases in western zone and 63 cases in northern zone.
Rules meant to keep people safe, says nurses' union
Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, said while restrictions are necessary, they often lead to anger being directed toward workers.
"Oftentimes they get angry with the people delivering the news," she said. "People need to understand that everybody's doing their best … they're not making the rules; they're just telling people about the rules. And those rules are put in place to keep everybody safe, including the patients and the health-care workers."
Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Strang told a COVID-19 briefing that people were being unruly at some testing and vaccine clinics in the province.
He said frustrations are being misdirected at people trying to help.
"None of this falls on them," Strang said. "And we've had to ask for police presence at testing sites as recently as [Wednesday] — that is just unacceptable and frankly disappointing."
Hazelton said when nurses encounter behaviour that is unacceptable, they need to call for help.
She said more protections may be needed at provincial hospitals if the abusive behaviour continues.
"We may have to beef up security in some of our facilities because the security we have is not enough … which is, I think, a sad commentary on society."
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