Growing Number of Canadian Hospitals Getting Rid of Visiting Hours for Families

Is your hospital on the list?

Ottawa, Canada – January 17, 2017 – A bold healthcare initiative by the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) is revolutionizing the relationship between healthcare providers, patients and family members – by including families as partners in care. What started as a grassroots movement launched under the banner of Better Together is now sweeping the country;  nearly 50 Canadian hospital and healthcare organizations, including the provinces of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are now reviewing or have already adopted family presence policies – including 24/7 visiting hours.

A November 2015 study by CFHI found that fewer than one in three Canadian hospitals had accommodating visiting policies, and even less offered 24/7 access to designated family members. “Despite evidence clearly showing better care and health outcomes, family presence policies were more the exception than the norm in this country,” says Maria Judd, Senior Director, CFHI. “We’re encouraging Canadians to have conversations with their hospitals and healthcare organizations about whether they could identify a loved one to stay by their side around the clock if they so choose.

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



Healthcare organizations

British Columbia

Interior Health, Northern Health, Providence Health Care


Yukon Continuing Care


Alberta Health Services – South Campus, Alberta Children’s Hospital, Pincher Creek Health Centre


Entire province has adopted an open family presence policy


Victoria General Hospital, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority


Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare, Parkwood Mennonite Home, Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital, Markham Stouffville Hospital, Norfolk General Hospital, Ross Memorial Hospital, North York General Hospital, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, Humber River Hospital, Headwaters Health Care Centre, The Ottawa Hospital, The Scarborough Hospital, Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, Stevenson Memorial Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, Arnprior Regional Health, Lake of the Woods District Hospital, Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital, St. Michael’s Hospital, North Bay Regional Health Centre, Deep River and District Hospital, William Osler Health System, Kemptville District Hospital, Kingston General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, St. Elizabeth Health Care* (Markham)


Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais, Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montéregie-Est, Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de la Mauricie-et-du-Centre-de-Québec, Centre hospitalier de l'université de Montréal

Nova Scotia

IWK, Nova Scotia Health Authority Harbourview site

New Brunswick

Horizon Health Network, Réseau de santé Vitalité


Health PEI

Newfoundland & Labrador

Eastern Health, Western Health

*St. Elizabeth Health Care’s policy will apply across Canada, including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

“Because this innovation was a culture shift for many organizations, we knew that providers, patients and families would have questions,” says Maureen O’Neil, President, CFHI. “Would there be too much noise? Would other patients and staff be bothered? Yet, what we have found is that these concerns haven’t materialized and instead family presence has enabled loved ones to be part of the decision-making process, especially during physician rounds and helping transition from hospital to home.”

“From a few early adopters to a grassroots movement that is sweeping the country, Better Together’s exceptional growth is reaching a tipping point in Canada,” says Stephen Samis, Vice President, Programs, CFHI. “We’re calling on hospitals and healthcare delivery organizations nationwide to take the pledge and begin the process of implementing the family presence policy innovation as a practical step towards delivering more patient and family-centred care.” 

In a 2015 poll conducted for CFHI, nine in 10 Canadians supported family presence policies.

Not being restricted to when we could come was what our family needed,” says Sonia McComb, daughter-in-law of Jim, a former patient at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. “Having that flexibility really helped us. The nurses never rushed us. They encouraged us to take breaks but we were never asked to leave. It was such a long, hard battle for Jim and the compassion shown to us by everyone at STEGH, and the fact that we didn’t have to work around visiting hours made it easier for all of us.

“Through focus groups, we heard from a number of patients and family members that restrictive visiting hours were causing hardship,” says Margaret Melanson, Vice President, Quality and Patient Centred Care, Horizon Health Network in New Brunswick. “Specifically, we learned that family members wanted to be a second set of ears, receive discharge education and instruction, and be involved more in the care experience.”

“The Academy of Canadian Executive Nurses (ACEN) is pleased to support the CFHI Better Together initiative. Families across all cultures play a pivotal role in wellness and healing; the recognition and commitment to partnering with families is a wonderful step in ensuring that the care provided integrates the familial context and is truly person centered,” says Lori Lamont, President, ACEN and Vice President & Chief Nursing Officer, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Better Together is supported by a coalition of 13 leading healthcare organizations, including provincial health quality councils, patient groups and others. This three-year campaign was launched by the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care (IPFCC), a non-profit organization located in the U.S., that seeks to integrate patient- and family-centred care into all aspects of healthcare, working in partnership with patients, families, and healthcare professionals.


To Canadian hospitals and healthcare delivery organizations:

  • Welcome families and loved ones as partners in care and engage them in planning and decision-making based on patient needs and preferences.
  • CFHI is providing resources to help organizations make this change.

To Canadians:

  • Start a conversation with your hospital about adopting family presence policies. CFHI and IMAGINE Citizens Collaborating for Health have created tips and resources about having these conversations and being a partner in care that are available here:

About CFHI:

The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement identifies proven innovations and accelerates their spread across Canada, improving patient care, the health of Canadians and value for money. CFHI is a not-for-profit organization funded through an agreement with the Government of Canada. Visit for more information.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada.

For more information, or to arrange media interviews, please contact:

Elissa Freeman – 416-565-5605
Robyn McIsaac (Atlantic Canada) – 902-440-1551
Brigitte Filiatrault (Quebec) – 514-521-8216
Holly Roy (Western Canada) – 780-991-2323