Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced a number of revisions to the health-care system visitor policy in B.C., intended to better support people with disabilities.
Dix said Tuesday afternoon (May 19) that the current policy “strongly restricts” visitation in hospitals and long-term care facilities to what are defined as “essential visits.”
The new revisions expand the definition of essential visits to include designated representatives for people with disabilities, including people who provide emotional support, assist with decision making, and communication for people with hearing, speech, cognitive, intellectual, or memory impairment.
The current policy came under fire following the death last month of South Surrey resident Ariis Knight.
Knight, 40, died at Peace Arch Hospital on April 18, after being admitted with non-COVID-19-related breathing difficulties three days earlier.
While Knight, 40, had cerebral palsy and was non-verbal – but could communicate with those who knew her well – none of her support workers or family members were allowed to be in the hospital with her, due to the policy.
Fraser Health officials said later that medical staff determined that further assistance in communicating with Knight wasn’t required, however, her brother David said the restriction essentially stripped his sister of her voice. She died without anyone who knew her or was close to her by her side.
In a radio interview with CBC last Thursday (May 14), Dix said visitor rules were changed in March to “keep people as safe as possible” during the pandemic. Changes being made to it now are in response to requests from the disability community, and will include a “more explicit” definition of essential visitors, he said.
Self advocates, their family members and others sent government officials a letter May 5 asking for a policy “that helps to make sure that patients with disabilities have the support they need when they are getting health care.”