Visiting Loved Ones in the Era of COVID-19
To Allow Or Not To Allow - That is the Question
Zainab Al Duhailib and Roman Jaeschke
About the Authors
Zainab Al Duhailib is with the Department of Critical Care Medicine, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh,
Roman Jaeschke is with the Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Submitted: July 2, 2020. Accepted: July 4, 2020. Published: August 27, 2020. DOI: 10.22374/cjgim.v15i3.473
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought numerous challenges
to our hospital units (in our case, the ICU): Some expected –
such as which antiviral, antimalarial, and anti-inflammatory
drugs to use, when to intubate, and how to ventilate? Some less
predictable, not even concerning patients with COVID-19 but,
in retrospect, possibly equally important.
With so much uncertainty about the spread of disease and
concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE) availability,
many health care institutions, out of caution, limited non-
medically related contact with patients and their caregivers, which
frequently included a policy of no hospital visits to patients by
family and friends.
Restrictions concerning visits to health care facilities have
generated a multitude of emotions and opinions. Those following
the news over the last few months have witnessed numerous
pictures of people standing outside the doors and windows of
health care facilities and doing their best to communicate with
their loved ones, the patients, inside a separate room.
Discussions among our colleagues from different institutions
and through the feedback received from families led us to
understand how the importance of physical contact sometimes
superseded the importance of most of the other elements of
clinical care we provided.
Against this background, we explored the way people
perceive hospital visits in the era of COVID-19 and possible
future pandemics. This effort was not designed to find out
what is right; we do not have the methods or the data to find
an answer to that question. Our goal was to explore what we
Using the MetaClinician® survey platform, we asked two
questions in a survey that was distributed to an interprofessional
sample of international work colleagues:
Assume your ICU patient does not have COVID-19, but
some other patients in the unit do. Many COVID-19 cases
originate in health care settings (true). Some families tell
us not allowing visits causes suffering (true). How should
we behave, and how could we ease the pain during this
pandemic or the next? Let’s learn from each other. Please
provide your ideas in the feedback section.
The second question was identical, except the hypothetical
patient had COVID-19.
The responses included:
We should not allow visits to areas with COVID-19 patients.
We should make exception for patients who are very
likely to die.
We should allow periodic visits (for example, weekly)
using all required precautions (PPE).
Families should have the rights to visit periodically (using
required PPE); we should figure out how to do it safely.
Within one week, we received over 100 total responses from
nurses (approximately 40%), physicians (approximately 60%),
and isolated responses from pharmacists, physiotherapists,
and respiratory therapists. Although most responses came
from Ontario, clinicians from 6 countries outside of Canada
The Table 1 depicts the range of responses to our questions
concerning visits to ICU patients with COVID-19:
Canadian Journal of General Internal Medicine
26 Volume 15, Issue 3, 2020
Duhailib and Jaeschke
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