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Visiting loved ones in hospitals/care facilities easier – not uniform

In what was a bit of a surprise, the RI Department of Health briefing on Thursday including a loosening of hospital and nursing home visitation. As much as it was a surprise to the general public, it also took the two major hospital groups by surprise as their website policies haven’t been completely updated, to date.

But – Lifespan and Care New England don’t completely agree on how they will proceed in the short-term. Other hospitals are in the Charter Care partnership or independent Landmark Medical Center & Rehabilitation Hospital of RI, South County Hospital and the Yale affiliated Westerly Hospital. As each hospital varies slightly – and some significantly – a call or visit to the individual websites would be advised.

First, the RI Dept. of Health’s new policy:

In March 2020, the Director released Hospital Visitation Guidance in response to the increasing number of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 globally, the growing number of patients diagnosed in Rhode Island, and the ongoing influenza respiratory illness season. This Hospital Visitation Guidance for all hospitals was based on a three-level approach to visitation. Each level becomes increasingly more restrictive as follows:

Level 1- Reduce visitation to protect vulnerable populations.

Level 2- Limit visitation hours, as determined by the hospital.

Level 3- No visitation other than those essential to care and who are free of the exclusion criteria in Levels 1 and 2.

RIDOH acknowledges and appreciates what all hospitals have done to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and that the lack of visitation for patients and their loved ones creates a significant psychosocial stress for the patient and their love ones.

They also acknowledge that we are now in a different phase of the pandemic, and cases have decreased. Also, hospital staff have been vaccinated, PPE is sufficient, and the general public is more compliant with protective directives such as mask wearing and infection control. They also add that COVID-19 is not going away, but may be an endemic disease, and we need to plan for its long-term presence.

It is recommended that all hospitals transition to Level 1.

Virtual Visits

Electronic methods for virtual communication between patients and visitors (e.g., video call applications on cell phones or tablets) are encouraged to the maximum extent possible. Hospitals should have these tools available for use by patients, and patients should be told that these devices are available.

Hospital Visitation Transitioning from Level 3 to Level 1:

Visitation Level 1:

Reduce visitation to protect vulnerable populations.

Anyone who is younger than 18 or feeling sick or having any symptoms or risk factors for COVID-19 are restricted from visiting staff or patients.

Rhode Island Hospitals Respond

Care New England Hospitals

Women & Infants

Kent Hospital

Butler Hospital

CNE policy statement: “Care New England is aware of the ask to lift visitor restrictions and is carefully considering how this will affect each of our operating units, with the unique needs of patients and staff of each location. We will announce when we have decided on any changes to the current, which can be found on our websites here: https://www.carenewengland.org/coronavirus 

Care New England has adopted the guidance below for safe visitation. Visitation looks different at each of our unique hospitals, due to the difference in patient populations served and the physical spaces to provide social distancing. (Visitors are encouraged to contact each hospital for individual differences prior to visiting).

  • All visitors will be verbally screened upon arrival and will have their temperatures taken. Those visitors with fever or other risk factors for COVID will not be allowed to visit.
  • Visitors under the age of 18 are not allowed at this time.
  • Universal masking is proven to help prevent the spread of COVID. Visitors must wear a mask at all times while in the facility.
  • Social distancing helps prevent spread of COVID. All visitors must maintain a distance of 6 feet from others, including patients, while in our facilities.
  • Special accommodations to allow visitation for patients with a disability are available, such as when a support person is essential to the care of a patient with developmental disabilities. 

Lifespan Hospitals

Hasbro Children’s Hospital

Miriam Hospital

Rhode Island Hospital

Newport Hospital

Effective Monday, February 22, Lifespan will be moving to a less restrictive visitation policy at Rhode Island, The Miriam, and Newport Hospitals, in accordance with Department of Health guidance. To ensure that patients can visit with their loved ones in the safest possible manner, we have created the following visitation guidelines:

Adult patients may identify two visitors for the duration of the hospital stay, who may enter during designated visitation hours. At Rhode Island and Newport hospitals, the two visitors may enter together. At The Miriam Hospital, one visitor at a time may enter, unless one visitor requires an escort.

Adult patients receiving end of life care may have two visitors at a time for a 30-minute visit. To accommodate additional family members and loved ones, additional visitors may enter after the original visitors exit, always for 30 minutes at a time.  

Pediatric patients at Hasbro Children’s Hospital may continue to have two identified parents/caregivers for the duration of the hospital stay, with one parent/caregiver staying overnight. 

Visitation hours at the different affiliates will be as follows:

  • Rhode Island Hospital: 2 – 6 p.m. daily
  • The Miriam Hospital: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 5 – 7 p.m.
  • Newport Hospital:
  •  Medical/Surgical and ICU: 1 – 3 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m. daily
  • Vanderbilt Inpatient Unit: 2 – 5 p.m.
  • Behavioral Health Unit: 1 – 2 p.m. and 7 – 8 p.m.

Visitors will continue to be screened at the doors, and must present a photo ID. All visitors are required to be masked at all times, including in patient rooms, and may not carry in any food or drink. The cafeterias and cafes remain closed to visitors.

For outpatient care and office visits, including at the Lifespan Cancer Institute, one person may escort a patient to an appointment at the discretion of the patient’s care team.

For adult Emergency Departments, Lifespan has a no-visitors policy. If necessary for patient care, one family member may be permitted during the intake process.

For detailed, current information, visitors should refer to: https://www.lifespan.org/news/limited-visitation-lifespan-hospitals-begins-monday-february-22.

CharterCARE Hospitals

Roger Williams Medical Center

Our Lady of Fatima Hospital

CharterCARE CEO Jeffrey Liebman stated “This liberalization of visitor policies is based on the latest guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health and will safely address the many requests of patients and their families. We will continue to monitor visitor compliance and will maintain constant communication with the Department of Health for any modifications that may be required.”

CharterCARE Health Partners has announced restoration of patient visitor access at both Roger Williams Medical Center and Fatima Hospital, effective immediately.

The following visitor guidelines are now in place:

  • Visitors are now allowed except for anyone under the age of 18 or who is sick or has symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • Visitors are required to wear a mask (double masking is at their discretion) and will be screened at the designated check points.
  • The current designated entrances at both hospitals will remain the same.  
  • Social distancing will continue to be always observed in all areas.
  • There can be no more than 1 visitor per patient in a shared room and no more than 2 visitors in a private room.
  • There are still No Visitors for COVID patients unless authorized in advance by the hospitals’ Chief Nursing Officers.
  • There are no set visiting hours except for the behavioral health and addiction units. Please visit the website for specific times: chartercare.org

South County Hospital

South County Hospital has moved to Level 1 Visitation for admitted inpatients. As of 2/19, visitors are welcome during normal lobby hours – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

To ensure that social distancing will be observed within patient rooms, no more than two (2) visitors per patient will be allowed.

Level 1 Visitation DOES NOT apply to outpatient areas (including diagnostic imaging, physician practices, labs, etc.), and the Cancer Center to protect vulnerable populations.

If a patient requires someone to accompany him/her to an outpatient appointment due to physical or cognitive limitations, the Administrator on Call must give the approval.

South County Hospital will continue to adhere to strict screening and social distancing guidelines, as well as cleaning of elevators, common areas, etc. to protect our patients, staff and visitors from the risk of spreading COVID-19 and any of its variants.

Everyone entering South County Hospital will be screened (including temperature checks) for COVID-19 and COVID-like symptoms.

Visitors under the age of 18 and those who have any of the following symptoms will not be allowed into South County Hospital inpatient areas:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

South County Hospital requires that everyone:

  • wears a mask or cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth
  • practices social distancing (remain 6 feet from others)
  • cleans hands when entering or exiting patient care areas

Women & Newborn Care Unit (WNCU)

Expectant mothers and their birthing partner should discuss exceptions with their providers and WNCU staff. To protect our patients and staff from the potential spread of COVID-19, we ask that visitors remain in the patient’s room during the visit. Once the visit is over, please do not enter other areas of the hospital, and exit through the main lobby.

NOTE: Individuals who have serious underlying health conditions, although not strictly prohibited from visiting, may want to consider visiting via telephone, video chat, or other means.

Landmark Medical Center & Rehabilitation Hospital of RI

  • Hospital visitor policies have been updated to reflect national efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. This policy may change at any time due to the rapidly evolving situation.
    • Maternity patients are allowed one companion/visitor.
    • Pediatric patients are allowed one parent/guardian.
    • Visitors to patients at end of life will be allowed at the discretion of the care team.
  • Hospital entry points will be limited to enable screening of visitors. Visitors who show any signs of illness, including mild symptoms, should not visit patients in the hospital or accompany patients to the emergency department.

Westerly Hospital

Inpatients are allowed one visitor per patient, per day. Visitors must be age 18 or older. Check with the hospital for more details. Westerly is part of the Yale-New Haven hospital group.

Nursing Homes/Assisted Living Centers

Each facility is putting their own policies together about loosening visitation, or not. You should check with your own nursing home of interest to see what their policy is. Also note that facilities will change policy quickly if a case of coronavirus is diagnosed in a patient or staff member.

There is a Rhode Island petition which has over 500 signatures as of today, urging healthcare facilities to open their visiting policies more liberally.

Here is a sample policy from one large nursing home:

[We] will open for visiting as of 2-17-21. Appointments may only be scheduled with Reception. Visits will be weekdays for 30 minutes. Time slots are 9:30 am; 10:45 am; 1:30 pm; 2:45 pm. You must arrive 30 minutes prior to allow for COVID screening & testing. Limit of 2 persons (over 18) per visit & 1 visit per week. A 6-foot distance must be maintained. Food items brought in cannot be consumed during the visit. You must park in the handicapped parking spots, phone the facility & someone will come out to test you. Any new admits must be here for 14 days before they may have visitors.

Always double check with your hospital or nursing home prior to visiting to assure no changes have occurred.

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