Battling swine flu, some hospitals restrict visits
BERLIN, Vt. - Some Vermont hospitals are restricting visitors in an attempt to keep already compromised patients from contracting swine flu.
Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Central Vermont Hospital in Berlin, Copley Hospital in Morrisville and North Country Hospital in Newport are restricting access by visitors to some parts of their hospitals.
“We're restricting visitors in targeted areas, high-risk areas,'' including intensive-care, inpatient children's, labor and delivery and postpartum units, said Dawn LeBaron, vice president for hospital services at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.
The Rutland hospital is taking steps to ensure a visitor to someone with swine flu, also known as the new H1N1 virus, doesn't spread it to other parts of the hospital.
“Visitors should wear surgical mask, gloves, and gown when entering room,'' says a policy issued recently by the Rutland hospital.
At Central Vermont Hospital, Alison White, chief nursing officer and vice president for quality, said restrictions on visitors are expected to remain in place for months.
“We're planning on this going through until springtime,'' she said. ``It's going to be a marathon; it's not going to be a sprint.''
Nina Tuller, a 48-year-old deli manager from Calais, said it makes sense to her.
“People with leukemia, with cancer, don't need to worry about their hospital. They need to know it's safe,'' said Tuller as she arrived at the Berlin hospital to visit a family member who had just had surgery.
“I don't want to see anyone die because someone was inconsiderate and came in with a cold,'' she added.
Debra Laprade, a 51-year-old convenience store worker from Williamstown, said the policy sounded like a good idea to her, too.
“I have a granddaughter who has asthma,'' Laprade said. “We don't want her to catch pneumonia from someone else who's here.''
No change in visitor policy is being contemplated _ at least for now _ at the Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, said Linda Minsinger, vice president of patient care services.
Gifford will keep the policy it's had for some time regarding visitors to its 25-bed hospital and its 30-bed nursing home, Minsinger said.
“We're a pretty small and simple place,'' Minsinger said. “We've always asked people who are ill not to visit our patients and (nursing home) residents. If you're ill please stay home. Otherwise, we love to have you come in and visit your family and friends.''
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington was another facility that had not taken steps to restrict visitors, said Kevin Robinson, communications director.
“There's a sign at our entrance that says if you're sick, don't visit,'' he said, but it had been up for a while.
As for a more restrictive policy due to swine flu, ``We have had discussions about it but at this time we don't feel it's necessary,'' Robinson said.
Several of the hospitals said they would restrict visiting parties to two people. Some said new mothers would be asked to designate two people they would like to have visit.
Hospital officials said they'll try to be flexible when the need arises.
“If a patient is dying and the family needs to be there, those situations are going to be viewed differently than someone who is here for a knee replacement,'' said White at Central Vermont.
CDC: Swine Flu Basics
Head over to the Web site of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information about the flu, steps you can take to limit your exposure to it, how to proceed if you think a loved one has it, and more. More »
Boston Public Health Commission: Swine Flu
Check out the BPHC's Web site for the latest information about the disease's local spread. More »
Mass. Department of Public Health: Swine Flu
The state health agency's Web site offers information about how to prevent the spread of the disease and fact sheets about the flu. More »
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