Hospital visitors now welcomed for COVID-19 units

Local hospitals let in one person at a time.

For local hospital patients with COVID-19, family members were generally not able to visit this past year.

Now, more than 15 months into the pandemic, hospitals in the 11-county region are all allowing one visitor at a time for patients with the respiratory virus. This includes hospitals in Auglaize, Butler, Darke, Champaign, Clark, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, Shelby, and Warren counties.

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COVID-19 patients at times spent weeks in the hospital with no visitors besides the staff. Other hospital patients also faced different levels of visiting restrictions at different times through the pandemic.

Besides video chats and some end-of-life exemptions, the support and connection patients typically received was cut off for those in the COVID units. Front line staff also previously told the Dayton Daily News that it was emotionally difficult to try to fill in that role the best they could.

Sarah Hackenbracht, CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, said caregiving staff have done so much “but it’s still not the same as your family member or loved one being with you and holding your hand, or just simply sitting in the same room with you while you’re waiting on information.”

“This was the piece that the clinical teams felt very strongly about. They wanted to make sure that we could get some level of that family support back to these patients,” Hackenbracht said.

There will be slight differences how each hospital does COVID-19 visiting procedures and these approaches could change as hospitals learn what works.

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There are 657 patients as of Thursday in Ohio hospitals with COVID-19, including 190 in the ICU.

Hackenbracht said declining cases and more people getting vaccinated helped drive the visiting changes.

“We’re in a much better place than we were even three months ago,” she said.

Visitors aren’t required to have vaccines, but vaccinations are strongly encouraged, especially because no one knows if they might have a loved one unexpectedly hospitalized with COVID-19 that they wish to be with.

Besides the COVID-19 patient visiting changes, the new hospital visiting rules allow up to three visitors per patient in private patient rooms.

Maternity patients will be allowed to have three visitors per patient at a time with the limitation of two support persons during delivery.

Visitation for pediatric patients in neonatal intensive care units will increase to three visitors at a time for the patient’s parents, grandparents or pre-identified support persons.

Children ages 12 and over may also visit patients under the new guidelines.

Patients who require assistance due to mobility,confusion, interpretation, court-ordered, or health care decision-making may have one additional assistance person.

Other exceptions to the regional visitor restrictions policy may be made by hospital staff upon approval. Exemptions to the visitor restrictions policy continue to include end-of-life situations.

Due to federal guidelines, masks are still required in all public areas of the region’s hospitals, which is any space that a patient or their family can access. The same CDC guidance that prompted Ohio to drop its state masking rules also stated that masks should continue in some specific settings, including hospitals.

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Patients and visitors may remove masks when alone in a patient’s room and will be asked to re-mask when a caregiver enters the room.

“Hospitals are obligated to ensure a safe workplace that prevents the transmission of COVID-19 while patients are in their care and protect all who remain unvaccinated,” Hackenbracht said. “As we continue to live with COVID-19, it is important to remember that a vaccinated person may choose to wear a mask while in public because of their own health status or the health status of a loved one.”

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