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Patient and family  guide to Essential Care Partners

What is an Essential Care Partner?

An Essential Care Partner (ECP) is a support person whose presence is considered essential to the safety and well-being of a patient while they are in the hospital. An ECP is different from a social visitor or a paid support worker. Most often, they are family or close friends of the patient who typically know the patient’s health history, lifestyle and personal values.

Why can ECPs visit patients in the hospital?

Having a familiar person available to patients to provide different types of support can help improve their health outcomes. The ECP designation provides a consistent and equitable way for patients to have access to this support as safely as possible despite visitor restrictions and is consistent with the hospital’s vision to provide each patient with the world-class care, exceptional service and compassion we would want for our loved ones.

For the safety of everyone at The Ottawa Hospital, steps are being taken to minimize the number of people in the hospital at any one time, while also taking into account the needs of our patients. We are all working together to minimize the number of people in the hospital. In-person visits are not the only way an ECP can support a patient effectively.

How can an ECP support their loved one?

There are many ways an ECP could offer support to their loved one. Some examples could include:

  • advocating for them
  • supporting their decision making
  • providing emotional and cognitive support
  • being a part of planning their care while in the hospital and once they are discharged
  • helping them use technology to connect with friends or loved ones
  • helping them eat, move around, bathe, communicate etc. as needed
  • participating in patient and family education
  • letting the care team know when they see a change in the patient

Who can choose an ECP?

All patients at The Ottawa Hospital (or their Substitute Decision Makers (SDM)) can choose one ECP plus a maximum of one alternate if needed. However, not every patient will want or need an ECP. Ultimately, it is each patient’s decision to make. For patients needing two ECPs, all involved should work together to develop an alternating schedule so that only one of their ECPs is at the hospital at a time.

Are ECPs permitted in all cases?

As much as possible, every patient who wants an ECP should have access to one. However, there are certain instances and areas where ECPs may not be permitted for safety reasons.

What responsibilities does an ECP have?

ECPs can not come to The Ottawa Hospital if

  • they have a fever, new or worsening cough, or any other symptoms of respiratory or other illness 
  • they have tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, or
  • they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

In those cases, ECPs must inform the unit manager or other person in charge so that the hospital can perform contact tracing.

ECPs must also:

  • self screen for symptoms of COVID-19 and other illnesses the day before or morning of each visit
  • complete screening for symptoms of COVID-19 and other illnesses by hospital staff at the hospital entrance
  • agree to follow all Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) practices. Some examples could include, but are not limited to:
    • washing hands frequently as trained
    • staying at the patient’s bedside
    • disinfecting phones, tablets and essential items brought on the unit
    • properly wearing a mask
    • following instructions from people in the health-care team and on the unit
    • accepting education and coaching from the health-care team, and
    • following public health guidelines in the community such as limiting contacts, wearing a mask and physical distancing

What are the steps to becoming an ECP?

  1. The patient or Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) chooses one to two people as their ECP.
  2. The health-care team/clerk and unit manager registers the person(s) as an ECP
  3. The ECP is offered online training on IPAC practices. If there are barriers to completing the online training, ECPs can access printed material or receive direct teaching from IPAC staff.
  4. The ECPagrees to follow IPAC practices and unit-specific policies. These can include physical distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks. Health-care staff must observe the ECP to ensure they are using personal protective equipment effectively.

What if I have questions about the ECP initiative?

Please talk to a member of the health-care team or call 613-722-7000

Last updated on: December 15th, 2020