Thunder Bay

Pandemic putting time constraints on maternal support person following delivery at Thunder Bay hospital

Parents-to-be who will have their new child delivered at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre have to follow a different set of guidelines than found at many other hospitals across Ontario.

Maternal support person now allowed to stay only six hours after delivery, unlike other hospitals

Support people for new mothers can stay only six hours after the delivery of a new child at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Many other hospitals across the province have no time restriction. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The COVID-19 pandemic is limiting the amount of time a person, be that a spouse, partner, family member or friend can stay with the mother and newborn child at some hospitals in Ontario, including Thunder Bay.

Parents-to-be, who will have their new child delivered at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, will now face a new limit for the individual supporting the mother following childbirth, something that isn't happening at some other hospitals across Ontario contacted by CBC Thunder Bay.

Currently, the hospital in Thunder Bay allows one support person to accompany the pregnant woman into the labour and delivery ward.

Once the birth occurs, the hospital gives that person six hours to stay with the new mother and child before they have to leave.

That change is consistent with Ministry of Health guidelines in response to the pandemic.

"Evidence-based decisions and responses are applied to continuously changing circumstances," a spokesperson for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre said in an e-mailed statement to CBC News.

"As such, guidelines may be updated from time to time to comply with the best available evidence."

CBC News contacted a dozen of the approximately 100 hospitals across the province providing maternity care, including level one maternal centres in Kenora, Dryden and Sioux Lookout. A level one provides the most basic supports for maternal care.

Level two centres in Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins, Guelph, and Kitchener were also contacted.

As well, level three centres in London and Kingston were contacted. That is the highest level of maternal care available in Ontario and can provide the most complex care, if required.

With the exception of Thunder Bay and Timmins, all those other hospitals allowed the support person to stay with the new mother and child for the length of their admission to the hospital.

The typical stay for a new mother and child is 24 hours, said a spokesperson for the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.

All of the hospitals surveyed allowed only one support person, and all had that person stay on the maternal newborn unit, or in the same room as the mother.

The hospital in Guelph provided a cot for the support person to stay the night, if required.

Following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is not the only hospital in the province to impose a time restriction on how long a support person can remain with the mother and newborn, regardless if the new mother and baby were still in hospital.


  • A previous version of this story said Health Sciences North in Sudbury had the same time limit restriction as the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Health Sciences North only has restrictions on the number of visitors allowed to accompany the new mother.
    May 09, 2020 9:50 AM ET


  • In a previous version of this story published on May 08, 2020, the article did not accurately clarify that the COVID-19 pandemic led to the changed visiting hours, and that the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre was following Ministry of Health guidelines that were updated due to the pandemic. A previous version of the story was updated in 2020 to include the tiering at each hospital, and we failed to include a corrections box informing our audience of that change, as required by our Journalistic Standards and Practices. We have also updated the story to add references to restrictions imposed by the Timmins and District Hospital, and to clarify CBC Thunder Bay’s research was based on a small random sampling of hospitals across Ontario and not a formal survey.
    Mar 22, 2021 1:58 PM ET


Jeff Walters

Former CBC reporter

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff worked in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario.