Hospital amends visitation policy due to H1N1 flu

The Bellingham Business Journal

To protect those patients most vulnerable to the H1N1 influenza, St. Joseph Hospital, including the Childbirth Center, has amended its visitation policy as of Oct. 22 to be consistent with recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All persons entering St. Joseph Hospital will be required to sanitize their hands, hospital officials said. Visitors must be healthy and not showing any influenza-like illness, including fever, headache, body aches, cough, sore throat or nasal congestion. Anyone with symptoms of flu-like illness will be asked to visit at a later date, when he or she is no longer contagious. In addition to being healthy, all visitors must be at least 12 years old. During this period, the hospital will not be able to make accommodations for younger children in the hospital.

According to the CDC, pregnant women, infants and children are among the most vulnerable populations. This group has a higher risk of severe complications, including death, if exposed to the H1N1 flu. That is why it is so important to reduce the risk of exposure by limiting the number of visitors to certain areas of the hospital.

Nancy Steiger, CEO and chief mission officer for St. Joseph Hospital, said that while restricting visitation may be inconvenient for patients’ families and friends, it is an important step to protect patients from this flu pandemic.

“It is our intent to do everything we can to ensure that every patient receives safe, evidence-based compassionate care at St. Joseph Hospital,” Steiger said in a statement. “In our mission to provide the safest care for patients, all efforts are aimed at preventing the spread of H1N1.”

There are additional restrictions on visitation to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the Childbirth Center, which includes Labor and Delivery, Postpartum and Special Care Nursery, as well as the Pediatric Unit. Visitors to these areas will be limited to no more than two adults per patient and no one under the age of 18.

Those planning to visit St. Joseph Hospital should expect to: be asked if they have had any symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) within the past week; sanitize hands before entering; and wear a mask, if directed to do so.

For the duration of this pandemic, those with symptoms of a flu-like illness and those under 12 will not be allowed to visit. As the H1N1 flu season progresses, hospital officials said, the visitation policy may be amended further as needed.

For more information, please visit www.peacehealth.org/Whatcom.

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