Visitor Restrictions Still Necessary
Visitor Restrictions Still Necessary

Visitor Restrictions Still Necessary

Family Medicine

Wyandot Memorial Hospital reopened elective clinical outpatient services this week, but visitor restrictions are still strictly enforced to protect patients and staff. The restrictions were enacted on March 13 as Ohio confirmed its first cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“We’re finding that some patients who test positive for COVID-19 exhibit atypical symptoms,” explained Valerie Schalk, the hospital’s chief nursing officer and quality leader. She noted the state is also reporting that some individuals testing positive showed no symptoms, such as at the correctional facility in Marion.

“Add to that the rather broad window for onset of symptoms from 2 to 14 days, and it means anyone walking around can have the virus,” she emphasized.

The restrictions at WMH extend beyond visiting hospitalized patients to also include outpatient services and doctor’s appointments. Patients are required to present to appointments alone unless accompaniment is deemed necessary, as in the case of a parent bringing a young child for care.

“Even spouses are not permitted,” Schalk pointed out, and said that very situation occurred in her own family recently.

“No, it’s not what any of us are accustomed to doing, but it’s vital right now to limit the spread of the virus and shield our most vulnerable,” she said.

At WMH, surgery patients may have one visitor on the day of surgery if the visitor wears a mask; is free from fever, cough or shortness of breath; remains in the patient room except for restroom breaks and meals and departs after the completion of surgery. Pediatric patients may have two visitors and they must adhere to the same rules.

No visitors are permitted for patients in the hospital’s swing bed program, but staff members are assisting with video chats for those patients and their families.

Due to the sensitive nature of an end-of-life situation, Schalk said staff will work closely with a patient’s family to best protect those involved.

“All of these restrictions are difficult,” she admitted. “So much of our overall well-being relies on our support system, but this pandemic has turned many things upside-down and forced us to implement strict infection prevention measures to protect patients and staff, too.”

In addition to restricting visitors, the hospital requires anyone entering the hospital – including all employees and medical providers – to be screened for fever and respiratory symptoms. Masks or cloth face coverings are also mandatory, and patients and their visitors are encouraged to bring one with them to wear.

“The good thing about having your own homemade mask or bandana is you can launder it at home for multiple wearings,” Schalk suggested.

She mentioned access to the hospital is limited to the main entrance or emergency department entrance to

preserve personal protective equipment worn by the screening staff. Although the entrance and visitor restrictions are temporary, no time frame for lessening them can be determined until more is known about the virus.

“COVID-19 is new and we are learning more every day,” Schalk stated. “We are fortunate that our small hospital is nimble enough to quickly respond to the changes as needed.”

She also shared her appreciation for the extra efforts of the staff and the community as a whole.

“We have successfully made it through the month of April without a COVID-19 surge,” Schalk reported. “Thank you for all that you have done to help make that happen.”

For questions about the visitor restrictions at WMH, phone Schalk at 419-294-4991, extension 2267.