Visitor restriction policies resume at some local hospitals as COVID-19 cases rise

Posted at 8:05 AM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 10:23:03-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Some hospitals around the Tampa Bay area are resuming or implementing new visitor restriction policies as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

New coronavirus cases in Florida hit a record Friday at 8,942, according to the Florida Department of Health.

HCA Healthcare announced a temporary policy that went into effect on Thursday. That includes Largo Medical Center, Northside Hospital, Palms of Pasadena Hospital, and St. Petersburg General Hospital.

"The main reason we’re doing that is to make sure we’re keeping both our patients and our caregivers safe and to preserve our PPE in case we get a sudden surge," said Largo Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chris Politis.

Dr. Politis says the hospitals had restricted visitor policies in place when the pandemic hit in March, but those policies had been eased as cases appeared to decrease a few weeks ago.

The new rules are as follows:

  • Inpatient Units – No visitors are permitted.
    • Exceptions must be approved by the hospital Administrator on Call (AOC) or administration and can be made for:
      • End-of-life situations
    • Labor and delivery
      • one visitor is allowed
    • Post-partum unit, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and pediatrics unit
      • Two visitors are allowed and may stay overnight
    • Behavioral health units
      • A patient’s attorney of record, a state of federal representative on official duty, and end-of-life situation visitors are allowed
  • Emergency Room – One visitor is allowed per patient in the ER.
    • Once a patient is admitted to the hospital, the visitor must leave as visitors are not allowed in inpatient areas.
  • Outpatient Procedures – One visitor is allowed per patient who is having outpatient surgery or other outpatient procedure requiring sedation.
    • The visitor must remain in the designated waiting area. If the patient is admitted as an inpatient, the visitor must leave as visitors are not allowed in inpatient areas.

HCA also says anyone under the age of 18 will not be considered for visitation unless they are the parents of a hospitalized child. Anyone permitted to enter the hospitals will have their temperature taken, be screened for illness.

USF professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Pharmacy Dr. Jay Wolfson thinks limited visitor policies at hospitals might be in place for a while, but are a wise decision.

"Visitors to institutions and staff are actually the ones who bring the disease in," said Dr. Wolfson. "They come from the community, we don’t know if they’ve got it. Even if they’re tested at the front door, they could be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, and they bring that into the hospital and then everybody gets its."

Sarasota Memorial Hospital is also re-instituting temporary visitor restrictions starting Friday, June 26 at 6 p.m.

The rules are as follows:

  • Emergency Care Center (ER) patients can each have one support person, who may wait in the hospital lobby (first-floor access only).
    • If a patient requires assistance to receive treatment (such as a stroke patient who cannot speak), then an essential caregiver may be allowed to accompany the patient into the ER or other patient care area, as necessary.
  • Labor & Delivery / Mother-Baby Unit patients may each have one support person, and additionally, may have a certified doula or licensed community midwife, in the event the patient is transferred to SMH for care.
    • No other visitors are allowed in Labor-Delivery or Mother-Baby units.
    • Expectant parents with questions about how this will impact their birth experience may call 941-313-0943 to speak with a clinical nursing leader.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients may have two designated visitors, but only one may visit per day.
  • Pediatrics patients may have one parent or support person (one visitor total).
  • Patients in surgical, procedural and testing areas may each have one support person, who must remain in the designated waiting area.
  • Certain extraordinary circumstances, such as end-of-life care; the department director’s approval is required.
  • Vendors will not be allowed to enter the hospital without approval from the department with which they are working.

AdventHealth is also reinstating a no visitor policy, except for special circumstances.

Those include:

  • Patients under the age of 18 may be accompanied by one adult visitor (parent, legally authorized person or caregiver). No additional visitors or siblings allowed.
  • Obstetric patients can have one adult visitor.
  • Exceptions will be made for extenuating circumstances such as imminent end-of-life or unique patient needs for support.

The rules apply to the following AdventHealth locations:

  • AdventHealth Carrollwood
  • AdventHealth Dade City
  • AdventHealth Lake Placid
  • AdventHealth North Pinellas
  • AdventHealth Ocala
  • AdventHealth Sebring
  • AdventHealth Tampa
  • AdventHealth Wauchula
  • AdventHealth Wesley Chapel
  • AdventHealth Zephyrhills

Tampa General and BayCare Hospitals have had similar policies due to the coronavirus crisis. At Tampa General, no visitors are allowed for the adult population, as well as no visitors under 18. BayCare Hospitals will only allow visitors in specific situations, such as labor and delivery or end of life patients.