clearn.png
Saturday October 16th, 2021 6:52AM

COVID-19 hospital visitor rules: Families want more access

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MIAMI (AP) — Banned from the Florida hospital room where her mother lay dying of COVID-19, Jayden Arbelaez pitched an idea to construction employees working nearby.

“Is there any way that I could get there?” Arbelaez asked them, pointing to a small third-story window of the hospital in Jacksonville.

The workers gave the 17-year-old a yellow vest, boots, a helmet and a ladder to climb onto a section of roof so she could look through the window and see her mother, Michelle Arbelaez, alive one last time.

A year and a half into a pandemic that has killed 700,000 people in the U.S., hospitals in at least a half-dozen states have loosened restrictions governing visits to COVID patients. Others, however, are standing firm, backed by studies and industry groups that indicate such policies have been crucial to keeping hospital-acquired infections low.

Some families of COVID-19 patients — and doctors — are asking hospitals to rethink that strategy, arguing that it denies people the right to be with loved ones at a crucial time.

“We need to get people thinking about that risk-benefit equation,” said Dr. Lauren Van Scoy, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Penn State Health who has researched the effects of limited visits on the relatives of COVID-19 patients. “The risk of getting COVID versus the risk of what we know these families are going through, the psychological and emotional harm.”

Van Scoy said many of the family members she has interviewed have shown signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. In newspaper op-ed pieces, doctors have shared conversations with patients who declined or postponed crucial treatments because of the visiting restrictions.

And studies conducted before the pandemic have shown that older patients in intensive care units that restricted visits developed delirium at higher rates than those in units with more flexibility.

Van Scoy agrees it made sense at the beginning of the pandemic to restrict visits because protective equipment and COVID-19 tests were in short supply and there weren’t any vaccines. But now, testing and vaccinations have vastly expanded, and doctors say screening mechanisms and personal protective equipment can keep the virus at bay.

Nonetheless, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends against in-person visits for infected patients.

“We do not take lightly the sacrifices we are asking individuals and their loved ones to make. We would not do so unless it was absolutely necessary,” said Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association.

Ann Marie Pettis, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, acknowledged that patients benefit from having visitors but said the group still discourages it in most cases.

“I don’t know of any place that doesn’t try very hard because families are incredibly important for the patients' well-being,” Pettis said. “These are heartbreaking decisions that have to be made.”

Jeremy Starr, a 36-year-old electric utility lineman from Jacksonville, is familiar with such heartbreak.

Starr, who contracted the virus in the summer, remembers being thirsty, alone and unable to sleep while hospitalized for 14 days in an ICU.

“The non-breathing was bad enough, but not to see your loved ones is the worst,” he said. “It felt like you were not a human."

Kirsten Fiest, an associate professor of critical care medicine at the University of Calgary who is studying the effect of isolation on COVID-19 patients, said family members are also caregivers who can lighten the burden of stressed-out health care workers in ICUs.

“By not having families there, nurses have to go out of their way to call them. They have to play a new role, even holding up a phone when someone says goodbye,” Fiest said.

Inspired by the stories of Starr, Arbelaez, and others like them, Darlene Guerra of Jacksonville started an online petition asking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to push for more access. DeSantis was an early proponent of reopening nursing homes to visitors, saying he felt banning them contributed to the suffering of families.

“It’s heartbreaking for all these families,” Guerra said. “We are going to work, we are going to church, we are going to the store, but we can’t go to the hospital and be with our loved ones?”

Justin Senior, head of the Florida Safety Net Hospital Alliance, which represents some of the largest medical facilities in the state, said that when establishing the rules for visits, hospitals take into consideration transmission levels of COVID, vaccination rates and the prevalence of heart and lung diseases in the community.

Some doctors say health networks are worried about nurse shortages and keep restrictions in place to avoid adding stress to already exhausted health care workers. Others say the process of screening visitors and instructing them how to wear protective equipment also takes time from health care staff.

“I think the position is coming from a place of fatigue and burnout rather than what is good for patients,” Van Scoy said.

Some hospitals have allowed people to visit coronavirus patients. The University of Utah Health earlier this year announced its hospitals would allow up to two adult visitors for the entire hospital stay, provided they remained in the patient’s room and wore personal protective equipment at all times, did not have symptoms and were either vaccinated or had recently recovered from COVID-19.

Many have made exceptions only for coronavirus patients who are about to die, which was the case at the Jacksonville hospital caring for Arbelaez's mother. The family says the rules were inconsistent: On some days, administrators allowed only one family member to visit; on others, several visitors were permitted. On the last day, only Arbelaez's father, Mitch Arbelaez, was allowed. It happened to be his birthday.

From her perch on the hospital roof, the distraught teen picked up her cellphone, called her dad and sang “Happy Birthday” to him as she peered through the window and gazed at her mother, unconscious on a ventilator.

Hours later, her mom died, alone.

___

This story has been edited to clarify that Dr. Lauren Van Scoy is a physician at Penn State Health, not Penn State.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
COVID-19 hospital visitor rules: Families want more access
A year and a half into the pandemic that has killed 700,000 people in the U.S., families of COVID-19 patients are asking hospitals to rethink visitor policies, saying they're being denied the right to be with loved ones at a crucial time
11:07AM ( 6 minutes ago )
William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, blasts into space
Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, has blasted into space and safely returned to Earth in a convergence of science fiction and science reality
11:03AM ( 10 minutes ago )
McAuliffe urges Dems to use muscle on voting, infrastructure
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, is calling on leaders in Washington from both parties — including President Joe Biden — to “get their act together.”
10:56AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Wildfire rages in Southern California coastal mountains
More than 700 firefighters are battling a growing wildfire in Southern California coastal mountains
10:29AM ( 45 minutes ago )
William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, boards rocket for blastoff
Actor William Shatner is counting down to his wildest role yet: riding a rocket into space, courtesy of “Star Trek” fan Jeff Bezos
10:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
Capt. Kirk's William Shatner on cusp of blasting into space
Actor William Shatner is counting down to his wildest role yet: riding a rocket into space, courtesy of “Star Trek” fan Jeff Bezos
9:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
FDA spells out lower sodium goals for food industry
Food companies are coming under renewed pressure to use less salt
8:34AM ( 2 hours ago )
US to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated
The Biden administration says the U.S. will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic
7:52AM ( 3 hours ago )
EXPLAINER: Why Social Security COLA will jump next year
Rising inflation is expected to lead to a sizeable increase in Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for the year 2022
7:48AM ( 3 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Stocks wobble as investors review earnings, inflation data
Stocks wobbled between small gains and losses on Wall Street Wednesday as investors reviewed several corporate earnings reports and the latest data on inflation
10:35AM ( 39 minutes ago )
Lava from volcano on Spain's La Palma forces 800 to evacuate
Hundreds of people in Spain’s Canary Islands are fearing for their homes and property after a new lava stream from an erupting volcano threatened to engulf another neighborhood on the island of La Palma
10:08AM ( 1 hour ago )
Great Brexit brawl: EU offers to improve N Ireland trade
The great Brexit brawl is heading into its next standoff when European Union concessions to improve trade in Northern Ireland are bound to be deemed insufficient by the United Kingdom
10:02AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
EU urges members to protect poor residents amid energy hikes
The European Union’s executive branch is advising the 27 EU member countries to adopt tax cuts, state aid and other measures to help households and businesses weather the impact of high energy prices
7:46AM ( 3 hours ago )
China says power cuts won't hit homes in winter, amid crunch
Chinese officials say the country's electricity supplies will be high enough to heat homes throughout the country’s north in the winter, amid a nationwide energy crunch that has seen power cuts in some areas
6:49AM ( 4 hours ago )
Energy agency urges bigger global push to cut emissions
The International Energy Agency is urging governments to make stronger commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions at an upcoming U.N. climate summit
6:43AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
The Latest: Boeing sets vaccination mandate for employees
Boeing Co. has told employees they must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or possibly be fired
7:27PM ( 15 hours ago )
Texas order reflects growing GOP vaccine mandates hostility
With the governor of Texas leading the charge, conservative Republicans in several states are moving to block or undercut President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for private employers before the regulations are even issued
7:15PM ( 15 hours ago )
The Latest: Florida fines county over its vaccine mandate
Florida has issued its first fine to a county it accuses of violating a new state law banning coronavirus vaccine mandates and for firing 14 workers who failed to get the shots
5:16PM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Business - Health Care
William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, blasts into space
Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, has blasted into space and safely returned to Earth in a convergence of science fiction and science reality
11:03AM ( 11 minutes ago )
McAuliffe urges Dems to use muscle on voting, infrastructure
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, is calling on leaders in Washington from both parties — including President Joe Biden — to “get their act together.”
10:56AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Film TV workers union says strike to start next week
The union representing film and television crews says its 60,000 members will begin a nationwide strike on Monday if it does not reach a deal that satisfies demands for fair and safe working conditions
10:54AM ( 20 minutes ago )
William Shatner, TV's Capt. Kirk, blasts off for space
Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, has blasted off toward space in a convergence of science fiction and science reality
10:51AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Bulgarian coal miners demand job security, fear changes
Hundreds of Bulgarian coal miners and energy workers are protesting to demand government guarantees for their jobs amid bids by the European Union to close mines and reduce carbon emissions
10:50AM ( 24 minutes ago )