Limited visitors now permitted with safety measures
After 12 weeks of visitation restrictions at Hillsdale Hospital, patient visitors may again see their loved ones during an inpatient stay. Today, the hospital begins the second phase of its return to normal operations, permitting limited visitors, simplifying the screening process and more.
In response to the impending COVID-19 crisis in Michigan, Hillsdale Hospital’s COVID-19 prevention team chose to limit visitation on March 13. Quickly following, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order prohibiting visitors to hospitals and healthcare facilities with a narrow list of exceptions. On May 28, the governor’s office issued executive order 2020-108, effectively extending the visitation restrictions through June 26. The order included a provision for other criteria provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which were released on Wednesday.
“We expected the visitation order to expire last Friday,” Rachel Lott, director of marketing and development, said. “Our COVID-19 prevention team had been meeting that whole week to finalize a phased plan for our return to normal operations. That plan was put on hold after EO 2020-108 came out, as we awaited further directives from MDHHS.”
The phased plan included an end date for Phase 1: Full Restrictions, which began on March 13 when the hospital’s initial visitor restrictions were put in place. Phase 2: Limitations will open up the hospital to some visitation, loosen restrictions on employees and simplify the screening process for those who enter the hospital. Phase 3: Normal Operations will mark a full return to normal operations. The start date for Phase 3 is yet to be determined.
“We were happy to see that our originally developed plan for Phase 2 already met the exceptions given by MDHHS,” Lott said. “We discussed it with our management team and distributed it to our staff yesterday. Today, as Phase 2 officially goes into effect, we’re sharing the full plan with our community.”
Starting today, inpatients may receive visitors during specific hours and, in most cases, patients are allowed only one visitor who must stay in the patient’s room. Permitted visitors are required to enter through the main hospital entrance for screening. They will be asked if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to an individual with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the past 14 days and will have their temperature checked with a no-contact infrared thermometer. Visitors who have symptoms, have been exposed to COVID-19 or have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be permitted to enter the facility. Visitors are required to wear a mask or other cloth face covering for the duration of their visit, unless they are medically unable to do so.
“We encourage visitors to bring their own mask or face covering if they have one, so we can reserve as much PPE for our healthcare workers as possible,” Lott said. “If a visitor arrives without a mask of their own, however, we will provide one to them. We know how important it is for our patients to receive visitors during their stay. It contributes to the healing process and we don’t want to prevent that.”
For those meeting the screening and mask requirement, permitted Visitation under Phase 2 includes:
- Emergency: One visitor per patient for the duration of that patient’s stay. Visitor must stay in patient room, unless patient condition requires visitor to move to the waiting room.
- McGuire Short-Stay Rehab & MacRitchie Long-Term Care (Skilled Nursing Facility): No visitors permitted unless visiting patients under end-of-life care.
- Medical/Surgical Unit: One visitor at a time per patient during the hours of 8 am to 8 pm. Visitor must stay in patient room.
- Behavioral Health Unit: One designated visitor per patient for the duration of patient’s stay. Permitted only from 6-7:30 pm Monday through Friday and 4-6 pm Saturday and Sunday.
- Birthing Center (Obstetrics): One designated support person for the duration of a patient’s stay. Two healthy grandparents during labor and for up to 2 hours after delivery. Visitors must stay in patient room.
- Outpatient Surgery: One visitor per patient for the duration of that patient’s stay.
- All Other Outpatient Services: No visitors permitted unless necessary to assist a patient in receiving care (communication, mobility, etc.).
In addition to visitation changes, Phase 2 includes a shift in location for nasopharyngeal swab testing, which for the past 12 weeks has been conducted outside the hospital in a white tent near the main entrance. The tent, originally set-up to accommodate for an expected mass number of individuals needing COVID-19 tests, is no longer necessary to manage the flow of patients.
“We are moving our nasopharyngeal swab testing into a private room just inside our Emergency Department,” Lott said. “Patients will enter the first set of glass doors at the main hospital entrance, check-in with the screener and be directed to the testing room. We must have a physician order to conduct COVID-19 tests, so we continue to encourage patients to call their provider or one of our primary care clinics if they are concerned they might have been exposed to the virus.”
Prior to COVID-19, Hillsdale Hospital’s certified environmental services team had for years been using a cleaning product that was later approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for its ability to kill the COVID-19 virus. At the beginning of Phase 1, the team doubled its frequency of cleaning common areas. As more visitors begin to come to the hospital and more patients begin to receive care that may have been delayed, Hillsdale Hospital has continued its infection control measures and added additional instructions to maintain required social distancing and restrict unsafe practices in its facilities.
“In areas where people might stand near one another or form a line, like at our information window, the lab check-in desk, or the check-in windows at our clinics, we are placing floor markers to indicate six feet of distance to help our patients and visitors maintain appropriate social distancing,” Randy Holland, infection control officer, said.
Indicators are also being added to waiting areas that show how many empty chairs a person should leave between themselves and other individuals.
“Rather than remove chairs and space them six feet apart, we are providing guidance to ensure families or members of the same household can sit together, while maintaining distance from others,” Holland said.
To view the full plan, including details of all three phases, click here.