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

Throat cancer – an easy one to miss

Friday 21 July 2017Media release5 minutes to read

Ear ache and a lump in her throat turned into an unexpected cancer journey for Cosette Calder. The 42 year old Christchurch woman was diagnosed with throat cancer two years ago – a common, yet mostly unmentioned, cancer that falls into a number of other cancers that can occur in the head and neck area.

One of these cancers is diagnosed in Canterbury/West Coast/Nelson Marlborough regions up to six times every week. Treatment of head and neck cancers often have a greater effect on a patient's quality of life, more so than the  treatment of cancers found in any other part of the body.

It's a cancer that can go easily undetected – the symptoms often being very mild, and quite common. For Cosette, she was coughing a lot, and sometimes had the taste of blood in her mouth. She experienced pain when yawning. A sensitive throat made swallowing food uncomfortable. A visit to her general practitioner resulted in a referral to the Ear Nose and Throat department at Christchurch Hospital. Here she was told she was most likely experiencing the early stages of throat cancer. Further tests confirmed this.

“I was shocked and upset. However I was thankful that I had an early diagnosis, as this gave me the best chance at being cured and leading a healthy normal life after treatment,” Cosette says.

Head and neck cancers often go undetected, because many people don't recognise the early warning signs and symptoms, says a Christchurch Hospital Head and Neck Surgeon, Dr Robert Allison. Since these cancers occur in a range of sites, they can cause a range of different symptoms, such as an ulcer on the tongue, a one-sided sore throat, a husky or hoarse voice, a painless lump in the neck, swallowing problems or changes to your skin in your face and neck area. Any of these symptoms that persist for more than three weeks should be checked by a doctor.

Dr Allison says treatment is complex and can involve major surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. “In Christchurch we see between four and six new head and neck cancer patients per week and some types are becoming more common, particularly cancer of the throat (oropharynx) and the thyroid gland.” Treatment can have a significant effect on a patient's ability to eat, swallow, or talk.  Surgery can have a major effect on a patient's appearance, he adds.

International day of recognition

July 27th is the international day of recognition for head and neck cancers every year. This is being recognised locally with a drop by information stall in the main foyer of Christchurch Hospital, run in conjunction with the Cancer Society.  The purpose is primarily to raise awareness and educate people about the prevalence of this disease and donations can be made to the Canterbury Head and Neck Cancer support group from 9am to 12 noon.

“Many patients we treat have advanced cancer, which means treatment is more complex with a lower chance of treatment success. Even if the cancer is successfully treated, it can still have a major effect on a patient's quality of life,” Dr Allison adds. 

“If general practice teams and members of the public were more aware of the early signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer, then we would see patients with less advanced symptoms and consequently a better rate of treatment success.”

So what causes head and neck cancers? There can be many different causes, in the past, smoking and drinking were the main contributors. While they are still key causes, cancers of the throat are increasing due to the Human Papilloma Virus. (H.P.V). Medical professionals are hopeful the recent introduction of universal immunisation with Gardasil, will mean that cancers of the throat due to H.P.V will become less common in future years.  

Feeding tubes and face masks

For Cosette, her treatment journey was long and hard. First up was a minor surgery to do a biopsy on the tumor that had been discovered in her throat. The next procedure was to insert a feeding tube called a PEG into her stomach – difficulty eating is common. For two months during and after treatment, this is how Cosette feed herself.

For six weeks, Colette underwent intensive chemoradiation – which combined chemotherapy (once a week) and radiation (five times a week). Before this began she had a plastic mask made of her face and shoulders, which she would wear during radiation treatment. This mask would be placed over her head and attached to the table she lay on to keep her in the right position during the treatment. “This was the single hardest part of facing the treatment.”

Two years on, Cosette says she is happy to be clear of cancer, and is now actively involved with the Cancer Society Head and Neck Cancer Group and with an online Facebook support group. “I feel happy and healthy again, but it was a gruelling experience. I have my life back and I and enjoy seeing my seven year old son passing his milestones. I am grateful for my second chance.”

Looking for head and neck cancer support?

If you are undergoing treatment for a head and neck cancer or you are a survivor, you may be interested in joining the head and neck support group. Contact Pene Clifford, Cancer Society on 03 379 5835.

“The support group offers information, access to health professionals, and the support of others to help people through the challenges of treatment and beyond,” Pene says.

Last year, the Canterbury DHB worked with Cancer Society, Canterbury – West Coast Division to develop a range of Head and Neck Cancer pamphlets for the public.

Find out on the Canterbury – West Coast Division of the Cancer Society website or call the Cancer Information Helpline on 0800 226 237.



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Page last updated: 21 October 2018

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