Caregivers and Support Persons Required in Joseph Brant Emergency Room NOW!

By Tamara De Dominicis

October 25th, 2021



When you go to the emergency room of the hospital, you are at your most vulnerable. No matter the reason that you need to see a doctor, something prompted you to seek out medical attention and you need help. At Joseph Brant Hospital, current rules state that patients visiting the emergency department may only have a caregiver or support person under “special circumstances, such as for patients with cognitive, mobility or language difficulties” (Joseph Brant Hospital). This is unacceptable for numerous reasons, which I will outline below.

The necessity of a support person in emergency should not be limited by Covid 19 protocols says resident.

Let us first review the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Burlington, Ontario at the end of October 2021. At present, there are 5 active cases of COVID at the hospital, with 120 cases reported in the entire City of Burlington in the last 30 days (Joseph Brant Hospital) (Halton Region). Vaccination rate is 84% for the eligible population in Halton and with the system of vaccine passports in place, it is possible to access nonessential services (Hennessey and Rosella). That is, one can eat indoors at restaurants, go to movies, concerts, or games, use sports and recreation facilities, and even go to nightclubs (Ministry of Health).

If you decide to go to a restaurant, all you must do is provide your name and information for contact tracing to the host, then show your proof of vaccination and identification. But if you try and go to the hospital to support your spouse, family member or child, you are not permitted to do so unless that person isn’t able to advocate for themselves at that moment, regardless of whether you are vaccinated or inhabit the same household as the patient in question.

I understand the need to limit the spread of COVID-19; however, the pandemic is not the only medical concern that affects Burlington citizens. A year and a half into the pandemic medical professionals are busy, overworked, and exhausted (Science Table COVID-19 Advisory for Ontario). Wait times in the emergency room are long and the waiting area is unattended by medical personnel (Joseph Brant Hospital). Arriving at emergency, the person who determines the patient’s capacity to communicate their medical needs is not a medical practitioner at all but rather a volunteer. I do not believe that a person who possesses no medical training or licensing should be permitted to give medical advice that must be followed. Furthermore, a critical medical situation can change rapidly, with a patient perhaps being able to advocate for themselves when they first enter emergency, and their health changing so that they are no longer able to do so.

Burlington MP Karina Gould, centre, with Minister of Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan looking through a scrapbook with a veteran at the hospital.

I have personally witnessed several situations that illustrate the necessity of a support person in emergency. One patient insisted they did not need a caregiver; the person who accompanied them then informed the volunteer their parent had dementia. A father brought his teenage son for care after a concussion who was also told to leave; he refused, the patient’s symptoms worsened, and he was not able to explain his medical history without his father’s help. An elderly woman fell in the washroom and spent 15 minutes on the floor despite her daughter calling repeatedly for help. How much worse would these situations have become without a person present to advocate for the patient?

Other hospitals in the Halton and surrounding area have recognized the need for caregivers to attend their loved ones in the emergency room. At the hospitals included in the Halton Healthcare Network, emergency room patients are permitted two support people (Halton Healthcare). It is time for Burlington’s hospital to support both its staff and its citizens by allowing caregivers and support people in the emergency room.

Works Cited

Halton Healthcare. Emergency Department. 2020. Web. 23 October 2021.

Halton Region. Halton Cases By Neighbourhood. 22 October 2021. Web. 23 October 2021.
Hennessey, Melanie and Louie Rosella. Tracking the COVID vaccine rollout in Halton.

23 October 2021. Web. 23 October 2021.

Joseph Brant Hospital. COVID-19. n.d. Web. 23 October 2021.

—. Emergency Department. n.d. Web. 23 October 2021.

Ministry of Health. Proof of Vaccination. 15 October 2021. Web. 23 October 2021. Science Table COVID-19 Advisory for Ontario. “Burnout in Hospital-Based Healthcare
Workers during COVID-19.” Science Briefs (2021): 1-24. Web.

Tamara De Dominicis (she/her) is a poet in ceaseless conversation with the natural landscape. Her two poetry collections, “Where the landscape listens” and “wayward weeds” communicate the parallel and sympathetic concerns of people and the natural world while excavating the connections of memory and place. She is the founder and editor of Wildflower Press, a small digital press with the aim of giving voice and distribution to local talent. Her pandemic project, The Window Zine, brought together art and artists of different mediums to convert creativity into funds for community organizations. She lives in Burlington, Ontario with her spouse and their pets.


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4 comments to Caregivers and Support Persons Required in Joseph Brant Emergency Room NOW!

  • Further evidence of the comments on a previous Gazette article on the dissatisfaction level with Joseph Brant and why an informed Buflington resident will choose another Emergency Room despite longer wait time and further to travel.

  • Denise W.

    What she said, times 1000. I have heard from some people, their own experiences and it is not good. In fairness I have heard from one person that felt okay about how she was treated. There are problems, and no solutions.

  • Jane

    I would ask to be taken to Hamilton or Oakville before I would set foot in Joseph Brant again.

  • diana levey

    Only if person has 2 vaccines plus 2 weeks plus mask. Same for visitors. I have as much protection as possible due to cancer. Hospital should have max..