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

Important information for open heart surgery patients

Wednesday 14 February 2018Public Health Alert6 minutes to read

THIS IS AN ARCHIVED PAGE. The advice and information contained in this page may not be current and it should only be used for historical reference purposes.

Canterbury DHB is contacting all patients who have had open heart surgery in which foreign material has been implanted (such as an artificial heart valve) at Christchurch Hospital or St Georges Hospital in the past five years.

In a small number of cases, international regulators have found that the heater-cooler devices that are used to control the patient's body temperature during these operations have been linked to infection caused by a bacteria commonly found in soil and water.

The risk of infection is very small (about 1 in 5000) but as a precautionary measure the approximately 5500 patients throughout New Zealand who have had these surgeries since 2013 are being contacted.

Patients who are part of this group will receive a letter explaining the situation and providing them with advice for the unlikely event that they become unwell. If you have had this sort of cardiac surgery at a hospital elsewhere in New Zealand, you will receive a letter from that DHB.

This is an international issue; so far one case of infection has been found in New Zealand and has been successfully treated. There is no risk to the family or friends of patients, or the general public of contracting this infection.

Patients are advised to see their GP if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained fevers or night sweats

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)

  • Pain in the chest, and/or redness or pus around the site of surgery

  • Increased shortness of breath

  • Joint or muscle pain

  • Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain

These symptoms can take months or years from the time of the operation to develop.

Heater-cooler devices used in New Zealand hospitals have been have been checked and cleaned or replaced as needed to prevent this from happening again. A rigorous system is in place to ensure future patients are not exposed to the bacteria.

Find out more:

  • Read our frequently asked questions

  • Watch senior clinicians talk about the issue

  • Talk to your GP

  • Call Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116. Healthline has interpreters available 24/7

  • You can contact us directly at

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the bacteria called?

The bacteria are called Mycobacterium chimaera and are common in our environment, including in soil and water. They very rarely cause infections in healthy people.

How can a patient become infected?

  • During some types of cardiac surgery, a machine called a heater-cooler device is used to keep a patient's body at the right temperature during the operation.

  • The bacteria have been found in some of these heater-cooler devices, and in a very small number of cases this has caused an infection in the patient having surgery.

  • Mycobacterium chimaera infection cannot be spread from person-to-person so there is no risk to a patient's family or friends or the general public.

What is the risk of becoming infected?  How many cases have there been in NZ?

  • The risk of infection from this bacterium is very small (about 1 in 5000).

  • So far one case has been found in New Zealand and has been successfully treated.

  • Your surgical team will have explained that there is always a risk of infection associated with any cardiac surgery. Infections can occur many months or even several years after surgery.

  • Although the risk is extremely low, it is important we ensure our patients and their families are well informed as a precautionary measure.

What signs of infection should I look for?

Patients who receive a letter from us are advised to see their GP if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained fevers or night sweats

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)

  • Pain in the chest, and/or redness or pus around the site of surgery

  • Increased shortness of breath

  • Joint or muscle pain

  • Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain

These symptoms can take months or years from the time of the operation to develop.

What should I do if I think I (or my child) may be infected?

  • Patients experiencing any one or more of the symptoms above please see your primary health care provider / GP as soon as possible.

  • Please keep your letter handy in case you need to see your primary health care provider / GP about this issue in the future.

  • You can also call Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116.

  • You can also email us directly at

Should I (or my child) be tested for this infection?

  • No, testing for this infection is only useful in the event that you or your child develop the symptoms listed above. There is no test available to detect this infection before symptoms develop.

  • The best way to protect yourself (or your child) is to see your GP if you have any of the symptoms outlined above.

What has been done to prevent this issue?

  • We are working hard to ensure that this issue is prevented in the future.

  • Our Heater-cooler devices have been checked and have either been cleaned or replaced as needed. A rigorous system is in place to ensure future patients are not exposed to the bacteria.

  • This is a known international issue, not restricted to New Zealand, and we are sharing information with clinicians in other countries.

If I (or my child) have an infection, how would this be treated?

  • If an infection is confirmed your (or your child's) clinical team will discuss treatment options. These may include the use of antibiotics and / or further surgery.

  • So far one case has been found in New Zealand and was successfully treated.

Am I (or my child) at risk with future surgeries?

  • No. All cardiac surgery carries the risk of infection, but we have a rigorous system in place to ensure patients are not exposed to Mycobacterium chimaera bacteria in future surgeries.

Who can I talk to for further information?

  • The best person to talk to is your GP or primary care provider

  • We working closely with Healthline and you can also call them for advice on 0800 611 116 Healthline has interpreters available 24/7.

  • You can also email us directly at


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Page last updated: 17 February 2022

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