NORTH BAY -- North Bay Regional Health Centre is welcoming back some essential visitors, now known as care partners, to the hospital starting Thursday.

The hospital restricted access to the facility in March due to the pandemic, based on direction from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

"We know this decision can be difficult for families and loved ones with a patient receiving care at our hospital," the health centre said in a news release. "Family and loved ones of patients are an important part of our hospital community."

This comes after CTV News reported a story about the caregivers of a man with dementia who were denied entry to the hospital during the pandemic causing his wife to remove him from the facility.

Beginning Thursday, each inpatient may have one dedicated care partner and a designated alternate for the patient’s length of stay between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Only one entry and one exit will be allowed each day.

Care partners are different from casual visitors. They are family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and community members who provide critical and often ongoing personal, social, psychological and physical support, assistance and care to patients.

Designated care partners will need to be in good health, will be screened before entry, wear a hospital-issued mask at all times while in the hospital, and take part in other new safety guidelines.

Detailed information will be provided to caregivers, including a toolkit and a sticker to identify them, when they arrive at the hospital.

At this time, general visitors will continue to not be permitted in the hospital as an important measure to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

The hospital says it will continue to monitor COVID- 19 activity both inside and outside of the hospital.

In the event of an outbreak, the change will be revisited.