Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Health to allow more visitors, but unvaccinated will face obstacles

Visitor restrictions will slowly be eased starting Monday, with more people allowed inside. But most of those who are unvaccinated will be turned away for the foreseeable future.

Staff will grant permission to unvaccinated visitors on a case-by-case basis

Three people can now be named as supports for children in hospital in Nova Scotia, but only two can visit at a time. ( Beenicebeelove/Shutterstock)

Nova Scotia Health says most visitors to its facilities will still have to prove they've been vaccinated, even after the province drops its COVID-19 restrictions on March 21.

Visitor restrictions will slowly be eased starting Monday, with more people allowed inside. But most of those who are unvaccinated will be turned away for the foreseeable future.

"The majority of our patients are vulnerable," said Andrew Heighton, the director of the COVID response for the eastern zone.

"We do want to take a cautious approach knowing that visitation is key to patients healing, improvement in their condition."

The new rules will allow up to five designated support people for palliative care patients and those undergoing medical assistance in dying, with three being allowed to visit at a time.

Children admitted to hospital, patients in intensive care and people giving birth will be allowed to have three support people as well, but only two will be allowed in at a time.

Heighton said health authority teams meet daily to discuss the rules, but they haven't determined when they will allow pre-pandemic access to facilities.

"We do understand the patients and their families, their frustrations over the last two years."

Reduced capacity

The number of staff off because of COVID or exposures has declined over the past few weeks. A Feb. 28 report showed 305 employees were off across the province.

Heighton said the health authority is still working at a reduced capacity because there are so many absences.

"We still have service reductions going on at different sites across the province. We still have staff in numbers off, they're unable to work due to exposures. We still have in-patients coming in with COVID-19.

"Those are three key things we continue to look at to see where we're sitting as a health-care system in the province to see where we can go with any restrictions that we have."

Heighton said if a patient wants an unvaccinated person to be their designated supporter, health-care teams will make a decision on a case-by-case basis.

"It's important that people call ahead, speak to the care team," he said.

He said people need to continue to be flexible because things can change quickly. He said some units might have to tighten the rules again if they face more exposures in the future.

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Carolyn Ray

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Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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