WINNIPEG -- Acute care facilities in Manitoba will soon allow patients to identify one essential caregiver to accompany patients under new changes to hospital visitation rules.

Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer with shared Health, made the announcement during the province’s COVID-19 briefing on Monday.

“Last month, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute shared with us a national policy guideline, where it looked at the role of essential caregivers, and we have used this guideline to update our visitor guidelines in acute care to ensure that our quality is always the best it can possibly be,” she said.

Under the new guidance, patients can identify one “essential care partner” to provide in-person physical, psychological, and emotional support for them, Siragusa said.

“This includes individuals who can assist in taking a patient’s medical history, collateral history, consent or decision-making, someone who can provide translation services if an interpreter cannot be accessed by phone,” she said. “Maybe someone who can help the patient understand complex discharge instructions, or normally would provide constant care to individual patients.”

The caregivers can also support patients who are critically ill or injured, in labour and delivery, assisting with postpartum, and pediatrics.

Siragusa said the intention of the change is not to encourage more social visiting, noting there are currently 18 outbreaks of COVID-19 at Manitoba hospitals, but to ensure there is access to individuals who are actively caring for patients.

Hospital visits are currently restricted across Manitoba to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.