Island hospitals’ family inclusion policies lead Canada

Prince Edward Island is among Canada’s leaders in making its hospital policies more family friendly.

Nearly 50 Canadian hospitals and health care organizations are participating in the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement’s (CFHI) “Better Together” initiative, which is revolutionizing the relationship between health care providers, patients, and family members.  Prince Edward Island (Health PEI), New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan are the leaders in adopting province-wide family presence policies that include 24/7 visiting hours for partners in care.

“We view family and friends as an important part of the patient’s healing and emotional wellness,” Health and Wellness Minister Robert Henderson said. “Family presence is about welcoming a patient’s family into their health care journey, allowing designated family members or other loved ones who can stay by their side 24 hours a day.”

According to CFHI, research into the benefits of family presence shows:

•    improved patient outcomes and experience of care;

•    fewer medication errors and falls;

•    better informed medical assessments and care planning; and

•    reduced lengths of stay, readmissions and emergency department visits.

“Despite evidence clearly indicating better care and health outcomes, family presence policies were more the exception than the norm in Canada until now,” says Marion Dowling, chief of Nursing, Allied Health and Patient Experience. “We found that PEI was already ahead of the curve, especially in our long-term care facilities and at other sites like Community Hospital O’Leary (CHO) where our staff and physicians were already delivering true patient and family-centered care by welcoming family as partners in care at any time – and relaxing formal visiting hours for those individuals.”

Results from a July 2016 Health PEI survey noted many health care facilities were already “relaxing the rules” or offering more flexible visiting hours to meet the modern day needs of patients and families. The majority of hospital staff said that a family/support person is allowed to be present during treatment and procedures, and staff felt the presence of a family member or support person is beneficial to patient care and outcomes.

 “We have had several families that have been so appreciative of the family-centered approach and care they have received,” said Paul Young, administrator of Community Hospitals West. “At CHO in particular, some very positive family experiences in palliative care were made possible thanks to the unrestricted visiting hour guidelines for immediate and extended family members that had already been adopted.”

Health PEI formally launched its Family Presence Policy last month. Islanders are encouraged to check with health care facilities or their health care provider(s) for more information on how the new policy applies to their family situation.

For more information on Health PEI’s family presence initiative, visit Family Presence.

For more information on the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement’s Better Together initiative, visit Better Together.


About “Better Together”: In Canada, the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement challenged Canadian hospitals to adopt “Better Together” (open family presence) policies.

Health care organizations in Canada are adopting patient- and family-centered care in an effort to improve patient safety and health outcomes. These organizations are finding that partnering with patients and their families creates better work environments and leads to operational efficiencies. As a practical step towards more patient- and family-centered care, many Canadian health care organizations are embracing innovative family presence policies that include loved ones as an integral part of the care team.

Highlights from Health PEI’s Family Presence Policy:

•    Patients are able to designate their family/partner(s) in care (these individuals may not necessarily be a direct relation)

•    Family/partners in care are welcome 24 hours a day according to patient preferences and in coordination with the patient’s health care team.

•    The policy distinguishes between family/partners in care and visitors:

  • ­Family/partners in care are persons identified by the patient as an important support to be included in the patient’s healthcare system encounters, including but not limited to immediate and extended family, friends and caregivers.
  • ­Visitors are guests of the patient or family who may wish to visit.

•    Visitors are asked to call the front desk or switchboard, or check with a care provider before visiting a patient. Some facilities may still have a rest period or quiet hours. Quiet hours enhance care by providing patients with a dedicated time to rest and get well.

•    There may be interruptions to family presence to protect the privacy rights of other patients or to maintain safety, security or clinical requirements.

Media contact:
Amanda Hamel
Senior Communications Officer
Health PEI
(902) 368-6135 

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