SUDBURY -- Officials with Health Sciences North in Sudbury are now asking all visitors to wear cloth masks when they are at the hospital.

"Handmade masks are acceptable," HSN said in a bulletin Wednesday. "So are those available at stores in the community."

However, patients will still be seen in the emergency department, regardless if they are wearing a mask.

Masks serve as an added step to protect others from germs when physical distancing is challenging or not possible, HSN said, such as getting into an elevator.

"But a mask is not a replacement for handwashing or social distancing," the bulletin said.

"Patients coming to the hospital should continue to practise safe social distancing, wherever possible, and regular handwashing, especially when entering and exiting the building."

Other than patients and people who need treatment, only people deemed 'essential visitors' should go to the hospital.

Essential visitors include people helping patients with communication, physical or cognitive impairments or those experiencing mental-health crisis preventing the appropriate provision of care: One consistent visitor.

For patients who are children or youth, that includes one approved parent or guardian visitor.

Patients having emergency, unscheduled surgery are allowed one visitor, for one visit only.

Patients giving birth are allowed one consistent visitor, while patients at risk of imminent death are allowed two consistent visitors.

"The safety and well-being of our patients, physicians and staff are our top priority," HSN said. "As part of these changes, access to the Ramsey Lake Health Centre is limited to the Main Entrance. All other entrances are closed.

Full details can be found here.

"Patients can still access the Emergency Department 24 hours a day. Patients requiring cancer treatment are asked to continue using the Cancer Centre Main Entrance for their appointments."