Hospitals and clinics across Northwest Arkansas have modified their guidelines for visitors, based on infectious disease experts’ recommendations.
Hospital officials said the shift is possible because the limited visits enacted earlier this year allowed hospitals to better protect staff, patients and the community, and helped ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) were available from workers on the frontline. They feel the tactics were helpful in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
But, hospital workers also know it can be vital to the ill to be near their loved ones, which is why the health providers have opted to modify the protocol. They assure the public of their diligence in screening visitors for COVID-19 upon arrival. Those who fail the screening will not be allowed to enter the facilities. Masks are required of all co-workers and visitors during their entire visit, including inside patient rooms. Visitors are also required to bring their own masks or face coverings with them and to also practice good hand hygiene.
Inside the hospitals across Northwest Arkansas — Mercy Northwest Arkansas, Northwest Health and Washington Regional — visitors will be limited to one per day per patient, including those in intensive care. The visiting hours may vary between hospitals. Patients visiting emergency rooms can also have one visitor who must wait in the car until the patient is taken to their room. The minimum age for all visits is 18 years or older. Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 or those waiting on test results may not have visitors, though the providers said some exceptions may apply.
Labor and delivery patients can have one to two visitors per day for the duration of their stay, depending on the hospital.
The hospitals said they will continue to limit the number of entrances into the facilities. Clinics across the region are also updating their visitor policies and the public is asked to check with the clinic before their visit.
“Clinically, we know when patients are with their loved one, it can be critical to their healing and recovery,” said Charlotte Rankin, chief nursing officer at Mercy Northwest Arkansas.
She said the steps taken to restrict visitors earlier this year was difficult to make, but necessary at that time. She is hopeful these modified guidelines will help in making healing connections again.
“Our own healthcare systems meet frequently, collaborating, and developing protocols, like visitor policies, that have been effective in lowering the spread of COVID-19. We agreed based on our infectious disease expert’s recommendations, Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, positively rates and active cases, that this is an appropriate time for our restrictions,” Rankin said.