Hospital visitation guidelines tighten -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Hospital visitation guidelines tighten

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Seasonal flu isn't the only concern of health officials. Widespread Swine flu is a major concern. That's why Phoebe Putney has tough new visitation guidelines.

Children under college age, pregnant women and people over 65 won't be allowed in the hospital unless they're patients. Clergy members are excepted.

Signs haven't been posted on the doors at Phoebe Putney yet, but you can expect to see some soon, asking visitors to stay away, unless they are caregivers. While some visitors will be allowed, there's a limit of just two per room.

Plus the people patients turn to for spiritual health will also be allowed to visit.

It's part of the job for Dr. Wendy Coleman, an assistant pastor at an Albany Church-- visiting sick church members in the hospital.  "Ministers know you just got to go when you're called,"  Coleman said .

Even at the risk of catching an illness, like the Swine flu.  "Usually when you're in the mode of comforting someone or encouraging them, you really don't think about, oh I might catch a cold or I might catch the flu, usually that's not in the forefront of your mind."

But what visitors could catch or pass along is on the minds of hospital administrators at Phoebe Putney.  "We believe that spiritual care is an important part of healing and we understand the need for pastors to connect with members of their church during times of illness and even after surgery,"  said Dr. Doug Patten.

And that's why members of the clergy will be allowed to visit patients in the hospital. But more stringent visiting guidelines are in place for other visitors. A maximum of two visitors at a time will be admitted and only during visiting hours.  "The problem we run into is casual traffic. Lots of visitors for one patient either crowding a room or crowding a waiting area," said Patten.

Children aren't allowed to visit patients at all. That's because they have a high risk of exposure and transmission of the flu.

"If you're sick, your defenses are down and again, increase traffic flow at this point, increases everyone's risk, not just the patients, but also the public,"  said Patten.

And remember, just because you may get the flu, doesn't mean you'll become a patient. "You stay home, you manage your fever, drink plenty of liquids and a few days, you'll feel better. There's very little need for most people to go to your doctor or a convenient care clinic," said Patten.

 That's a message hospital Administrators really want to stress to the public, that not everyone who comes down with flu or flu like symptoms needs to visit a doctor or take anti-viral medications. Of course, if you are in a high risk category, or if your symptoms suddenly take a turn for the worse, don't hesitate to seek help.

The restrictions are in place immediately. They'll likely remain in place until the end of the regular flu season. Last year, that lasted until April.

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