Hospital visiting guidelines updated 20 July 2022: Hospital visitors must wear a surgical/medical paper mask. Fabric face coverings are no longer acceptable. See our COVID-19 pages for detailed information about hospital visiting guidelines, COVID-19 tests and care in the community advice. See for information about vaccinations.

We are at ORANGE according to the NZ COVID-19 Protection Framework

Last updated:
20 July 2022

Mask exemptions accepted for people seeking treatment
Any member of the public with a mask exemption is welcome in all our facilities when attending to receive health care and *treatment. Please show your mask exemption card and appointment letter to staff at the entrance.

*Treatment includes: coming into the Emergency Department, outpatient appointments,  surgery or a procedure.

For visitors to all facilities effective from Wednesday 20 July 2022

With the recent resurgence in cases in Canterbury, largely due to the Omicron BA.5 subvariant we are seeing an increase in demand right across the health system. Presentations to our Christchurch ED and Ashburton’s AAU are higher than ever and admission rates are high, which means we have a shortage of resourced beds.

Recently, we have seen too many unwell people coming to visit someone in hospital and too many that cannot or will not wear a medical mask. This increases the risk to vulnerable people in hospital. For these reasons we need to everything we can to minimise these risks.

We have therefore tightened visitor restrictions for all Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury hospitals and health facilities.

Kia whakahaumaru te whānau, me ngā iwi katoa – this is to keep everybody safe:

  • One visitor per patient in the hospital at any given time, except where stated otherwise in the ‘exceptions’ section below.
  • No visitors under 16 to any part of our facilities.
  • No visitors to COVID +ve patients other than in exceptional circumstances.
  • No eating or drinking at the bedside or anywhere other than cafes or areas designated for eating/drinking, as taking your mask off puts patients at risk.
  • Visitors or support people must not visit our facilities if they are unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms (even if they have tested negative) or have had a recent tummy bug.
  • Do not visit if you are COVID +ve or a household contact of someone who has tested positive
  • Surgical/medical masks must be worn at all times at all sites and will be provided if people don’t have them. Mask exemptions do not apply in our facilities – people who cannot tolerate a mask cannot visit at this time.
  • Hand sanitiser stations are visible and must be used.

By sticking to the rules above, you help keep our patients, staff, other visitors and yourself safe. We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as our staff work hard to protect and care for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Exceptions to the ‘one visitor’ policy

  • Exceptions can apply in some circumstances where trusted whānau members provide assistance, reassurance and other support for therapeutic care or on compassionate grounds – please talk to the ward’s Charge Nurse to discuss this before you come to hospital to visit. For whānau with an essential support role as a Partner in Care – again, please check with the ward’s Charge Nurse before you come to hospital to visit.
  • People attending Christchurch ED or Ashburton AAU can have one support person with them.
  • Women in labour and in the birthing suite can have two named support people + their community LMC/midwife if they have one – for the duration of the birth only. All other women on the Maternity Ward are allowed one support person for the duration of their stay in our facilities at Christchurch Women’s Hospital and other maternity units. Only one support person can be with each woman in the maternity ward, and one support person for maternity clinic appointments. No under 16s are allowed to visit or attend appointments.
  • Parents/caregivers can be with their baby in NICU.
  • Parents/caregivers are able to be with their child in hospital (Except Children’s Haematology and Oncology Day patients where only one parent or caregiver is permitted).
  • People requiring support when attending an appointment can have one support person. Please let the relevant service know if you need this so they are able to accommodate your request.

Visiting patients with COVID-19

  • To avoid them becoming infected with COVID-19 and passing it one, visitors to COVID-19 positive patients will not be allowed except in extenuating circumstances – by prior agreement with the Charge Nurse Manager only, and wearing an N95 mask.
  • Other methods of communication will be facilitated e.g. phone, facetime, zoom etc.

You must NOT visit the hospital if you

  • are a household contact of a COVID-19 positive case
  • are COVID-19 positive
  • Have a cold or flu/COVID-19-like symptoms (even if you are testing negative for COVID-19)

Exceptions for people with disabilities

An exception will be made for people with disabilities who are in hospital or have to attend an outpatient appointment – where they need a support person to access health services. For example, a sign language interpreter, support person for someone with a learning disability, or someone to assist with mobility. The support person is in addition to the one permitted visitor.

Everyone visiting our facilities must wear a mask, no exceptions

While we appreciate that some people have legitimate reasons for being exempt from wearing a mask and may even have an official card to confirm this, people who cannot or will not wear a mask cannot visit someone in hospital or attend hospital, other than to access healthcare treatment*. This is another measure to minimise the risk to vulnerable patients.

*healthcare treatment includes: Emergency Department care, outpatient appointments, surgery or a procedure. 

Patients and visitors should also read the additional more detailed visiting guidelines for each specific hospital.

More COVID-19 information

Shorter stays and happier staff with Cortex app

Thursday 24 May 2018Media release4 minutes to read

A nurse using Cortex in Christchurch Hospital.

A nurse using Cortex in Christchurch Hospital.

Christchurch Hospital staff are calling for wider use of a “phenomenal” app that reduces hassle and shortens patient stays.

Cortex is an app for iPhones and iPads that digitises patient notes and makes them instantly available to all medical staff in a patient's care team.

In mid-2017, three wards ran a three-month pilot of the app, which was used by nurses, doctors and hospital pharmacy as well as allied health professionals.

“At the end of our 12 week trial we weren't willing to give it back,” says Clinical Nurse Specialist Stacey Simpson.

“General Surgery was given permission to continue using it because I think they would have had a revolt if they'd tried to take it off us.”

The app allows health professionals to “subscribe” to a patient they are looking after.

That gives them access to a timeline of information including clinical notes and tasks that need to be completed.

Under the old system, Stacey says, doctors on medical rounds would write observations onto stickers, which they would later stick to a patient's clinical notes.

“They'd complete them, but they were sometimes hard to read and easy to lose.

“It could sometimes be five or six hours before these stickers would be applied to the notes. So if a nurse had not been on the ward round with the doctors, it was literally the patients telling us what the doctors had said.”

With Cortex, doctors add the notes to the app as they do rounds, save them, and sign them off so other staff can access them immediately. That means nurses doing their 10am board round can see new notes instead of relying on old information.

A board round is where the care team gathers round an electronic whiteboard on the ward each morning to discuss and exchange information on each patient to ensure they get the right care.

Physical notes are usually stored in one place, but they can go wandering with another health professionals who is using them, or if the patient is taken to another ward.

“For nurses particularly, and for allied health, everybody now has visibility of the electronic notes so you don't have to go and find the physical ones,” Stacey says.

“The whole closed-communication loop is just phenomenal. I mean, the amount of time it saves nurses and increases patient confidence day-to-day is a huge benefit.”

The app also reduces competition for shared computers in busy wards.

Charge Nurse Manager Jessica Carey says the standard method of sending a task to a house surgeon used to involve paging them. This meant waiting by the phone until the doctor could call back, often causing the doctor to leave a ward round to go to a phone.

“Now I can delegate a task to a house surgeon on Cortex. The house surgeon then accepts my task, and I can see when they have,” she says.

“If they were in clinic for the next two hours they can add a comment so I know the likely time frame for a response.”

A busy house surgeon could even delegate the task to someone else who was free to pick it up, Jessica says.

“I don't have to wander back and forth to a paper note every half hour to see if something has been done.”

According to Canterbury District Health Board data, the average length of stay decreased by 20 percent and readmission decreased by 12.5 percent in the wards where the app was trialled.

Dr Chris Rumball, clinical lead for the app's developer Sense Medical, says the reductions were entirely down to the use of Cortex.

He says patients are happy to get out of hospital quicker, and shorter stays mean lower risk of infection.

“The sooner you're in and out of hospital, generally the better off you are.”

Shorter stays also reduce demand for beds, which Dr Rumball says is a big issue coming into winter when more people are sick.

“This has enormous implications for reduced costs and better planning.”

The official plan for Cortex is to deploy it throughout Canterbury DHB's new Acute Services Building so that staff are trained and practiced in its use before the new facility comes on line.

Dr Rumball says Sense Medical also has bigger plans for the app.

“There are many areas, both in the hospital and the community, where bringing a multidisciplinary team closer together will improve the quality of patient care” he says.

“There's plenty of interest from other DHBs and community health organisations, and we're starting to look at Australia.”

Cortex has been co-developed by Sense Medical as part of the Canterbury Health System's focus on using technology to improve healthcare for patients and staff.



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Page last updated: 20 December 2018

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