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U.Va. Health tightens hospital regulations to prevent spread of COVID-19

After gradually implementing regulations over the past month to combat COVID-19, U.Va. Health is adopting more stringent regulations to increase protection against the virus

<p>The Health System's emergency room remains open, although patients are only permitted one guest each.</p>

The Health System's emergency room remains open, although patients are only permitted one guest each.

The University Health System announced just over two weeks ago the cancellation of ambulatory clinic visits and new hospital visitor limitations and screening policies. Soon after these changes were implemented, the Health System announced a new wave of more stringent regulations including the elimination of hospital visitation altogether, a more aggressive screening approach and the cancellation of many elective surgeries.

Since March 22, in-patient unit visitors at the hospital are not permitted — with a few key exceptions at the discretion of unit managers — according to a Health System press release. 

These changes come in the wake of the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Charlottesville and Virginia. As of Friday, there are over 2,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the Commonwealth and 17 confirmed cases in Charlottesville. 

With a unit manager’s approval, a single visitor who has no COVID-19 symptoms or exposure is permitted at all times for children, as well as patients having a baby. Two visitors with no symptoms are permitted at all times for patients receiving end-of-life care. 

Similar exceptions can be made for patients undergoing operations requiring anesthesia. Surgical inpatients may have one visitor for an hour after their procedure, while outpatients may have one visitor accompany and wait for them after surgery. 

If a visitor is approved for a patient, that visitor may be the patient’s only visitor during their stay — meaning the hospital’s policy does not simply mean one or two visitors at a time, but one or two visitors per patient stay. 

All visitors entering Health System buildings must also be screened for respiratory and COVID-19 symptoms and exposure at designated entrances. This includes entrances at the University hospital, Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center and Education Resource Center, Battle Building, West Complex and Emergency Department/South University Hospital Tower.

For all outpatient and emergency department visits, patients are permitted to have one person accompany them during their time at the facility, but social distancing will be enforced and limited arrivals, departures and movement will be encouraged. Parents with no childcare may bring multiple children. 

Many elective surgeries have also been postponed due to the pandemic in another attempt to limit the spread of the virus. These postponements — many of which were made weeks ago — were ahead of other healthcare institutions, according to Patrick Jackson, physician in infectious disease and international health.

“Previously the medical center had announced things like reconsidering whether elective surgeries can be postponed,” Jackson said. “I think we got ahead of a lot of places on that.”

While Jackson recognizes that the Health System is taking steps such as eliminating hospital visitation and canceling elective surgeries can be difficult, he also believes in its importance.

“I’ve seen how important it is for people to have their family members, and elective surgeries are still very important,” Jackson said. “These are the sorts of bold steps that are necessary though.” 

Despite the stringency of the steps the Health System has taken, Tracey Hoke, chief of quality and performance improvement, believes the community’s response will remain positive and helpful.

“People are more altruistic than you might think and are doing work to prevent the spread of the virus through things like social distancing,” Hoke said.

For the most up-to-date COVID-19 information and healthcare recommendations, see the Health System’s website. For information on how to visit a patient or enter Health System buildings, see their informational page. Those wishing to contact patients without a physical visit to the Health System should see the page for how to call patients and send mail and e-Cards.