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Further visiting restrictions implemented to prevent spread of flu illness

Posted Nov 4th, 2009

Niagara, ON:  The Niagara Health System (NHS) is taking additional steps to reduce the number of visitors across its seven sites to help prevent the spread of flu illness.

Effective today, as a temporary measure, visitors must be 16 years of age or older except for compassionate reasons. This restriction is due to the risk to inpatients, children and staff, and it is consistent with measures other hospitals in our Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) area are taking.

In the hospital’s three Maternal/Child Units, located at the Greater Niagara General, St. Catharines General and Welland sites, only parents will be permitted to visit the Special Care Nurseries. Visitors of patients in the labour and delivery area of the units will be limited to the same two identified visitors who must not have any flu symptoms.

The long-standing visiting policy restricts the number of visitors to two per patient at one time, and that requirement will be enforced. Visitors are not to come to hospital to visit patients if they feel ill and will be asked to leave if they show signs of the flu. The incubation period for H1N1 is about seven days, and hospital visitors are asked to keep that in mind as they decide whether they should visit.

“We appreciate that families and visitors are concerned about their loves ones and want to visit, and the revised visiting policy reflects that while protecting the health and safety of everyone,” says Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive Sue Matthews. “The revised policy is compassionate and flexible to meet the changing priorities we are facing while maintaining the overall safety of the patients, staff, physicians, visitors, volunteers and the general public.”

Please see attached Appendix for further detail on visiting hours.

Surgery update
Elective inpatient surgeries will be reduced on Thursday, November 5, due to the number of patients requiring hospital treatment and the number of staff calling in sick. Endoscopy procedures will resume on Thursday, and all day surgeries will proceed as scheduled.

By postponing surgeries, the hospital is able to redeploy nurses and other staff to other areas in the hospital.  The increased activity related to H1N1 is creating a ripple effect for services throughout the hospital, and there are a significant number of measures in place to manage the increased pressures.

Emergency Rooms and Urgent Care Centre
NHS Emergency Rooms (ER) and Urgent Care Centres (UCC) saw a 16 percent overall increase in patient volumes yesterday as compared to the daily average last month; 594 patients yesterday compared to the September daily average of 512. An additional 58 patients were seen in the Flu Assessment Centre. Of the 652 patients seen in the ERs, UCCs and Flu Assessment Centre, 46 per cent of patients, or 301 patients, presented with flu symptoms.

Flu Assessment Centre for minor symptoms only
“We are very pleased with the turnout at the Flu Assessment Centre located at the Ontario Street Site in St. Catharines,” says Vice President Patient Services Linda Boich. “In the first two days, we saw 100 patients.  By redirecting patients with minor symptoms to the Flu Assessment Centre, we are taking some of the pressure off the ERs and Urgent Care Centres.”

“I need to emphasize how important it is that people go to the Flu Assessment Centre only if they have minor flu symptoms – fever, dry cough, sore throat, mild vomiting, diarrhea, headache, body/muscle aches,” says Linda. “Please go to the ER or call 911 if your condition is more serious.”

Inpatients and Intensive Care Units
Most of the patients NHS is seeing with flu-like illness are not critically ill. In most cases, these types of patients are treated and discharged and have not required hospitalization. Currently, there are 36 inpatients with confirmed or suspected H1N1 flu, compared to 43 yesterday.  Three patients are on ventilators in our Intensive Care Units.

As the situation evolves with the prevalence of flu symptoms and respiratory illness in our region, the hospital will reassess on a daily basis the need to make changes in order to respond to the increase in demand for care.  

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Caroline Bourque Wiley
Consultant, Public Affairs
905-378-4647, ext. 43113


Visiting Hours
Temporary Restrictions

Two visitors (without flu symptoms) per patient.  Visitors must be 16 years of age and over

Visiting on the following inpatient units is between 2 and 8 p.m. only:

  • Medical, Surgical and Mental Health
  • Obstetrics and Paediatrics - Also provides open visiting hours for spouse/partner.
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – Open visiting hours for immediate family. No visiting is allowed between 2 and 4 p.m. to provide rest period for patients.

Complex Continuing Care Unit & Extended Care Unit – Visiting hours are 
11 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Niagara Health System