In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare facilities in Canada implemented blanket visitor restriction policies that prohibited essential care partners from entering facilities and partnering in patient care. While directives have continued to shift over time, many directives and policies lack clarity in differentiating between the role of visitors and essential care partners.
Essential care partners differ from general visitors and restricting their physical presence in healthcare institutions can lead to unintended harm for patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers. There is clear evidence that demonstrates the presence of, and engagement with, essential care partners benefits care, experience, safety and outcomes.
Three foundational principles were identified for the successful reintegration of essential care partners:
The implementation of this guidance should be based on the local context of the healthcare facility. Changes made to processes and policies, and the communication of these policies, need to be co-developed with patients, families, caregivers and providers in order to meet everyone’s collective needs.