UPDATE: CHI Texas Division aims to prevent spread of coronavirus with visitor restrictions

Memorial Hermann
Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center is among the facilities subject to a new visitors policy. (Courtesy Memorial Hermann)

Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center is among the facilities subject to a new visitors policy. (Courtesy Memorial Hermann)

Updated 9:16 p.m., March 11

Effective immediately, in an effort to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect patients, visitors, employees and physicians, CHI Texas Division facilities are enhancing their visitor policies while taking into account market-specific epidemiologic factors, according to a press release from March 11.

This is out of an abundance of caution and effects facilities in Greater Houston, Lufkin-Memorial and College Station. The modified visitor policy restricts the number of visitors to two adult visitors per patient per day for non-isolation patients, according to the release. Patients in isolation are allowed one adult visitor per day. These precautions also limit the number of entry points at each facility, and visitors may be asked yo wear a mask, gown or gloves depending on the health condition of the patient they are visiting, the release said.

Visitors may be screened upon entering the hospital, and visitors who are ill will not be allowed to enter the facility unless they are seeking care.

Below are facilities impacted in the Greater Houston area by the modified visitor policy:

·Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center

·CHI St. Luke’s Health—Lakeside Hospital

·CHI St. Luke’s Health—Springwoods Village Hospital

·CHI St. Luke’s Health—The Vintage Hospital

·CHI St. Luke’s Health—The Woodlands Hospital

·CHI St. Luke’s Health—Sugar Land Hospital

·CHI St. Luke’s Health—Patients Medical Center

For more information, visit CHITX.org.

Updated 3:20 p.m. March 10

Harris County Public Health announced a partnership with Harris Health System to launch Ask My Nurse, a call center resource for residents in unincorporated Harris County who do not have a health care provider and need access to coronavirus-related care, according to a March 10 news release. The Ask My Nurse line provides help with access for symptoms assessments and referals to appropriate levels of care for residents without access to health care.

Harris County is also staffing a call line with public health staff available to answer questions about coronavirus, according to the release.

"Coronavirus does not discriminate between those who have access to health care and those that do not," County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in the release. "We're leaning forward on addressing this challenge by using every tool we have available to slow and mitigate the impact of this virus. As part of our response, we must fill gaps to ensure that concerns about access to care do not prevent folks who may need care from coming forward and being screened, monitored and tested if necessary."

Harris Health also announced March 10 all patients and visitors to its 48 clinical locations are now being screened for the virus, according to a March 10 release from Harris Health. Each patient and visitor will be asked about recent travel history to areas known to have community-spread of the virus as well as any symptoms of a cough, fever or respiratory difficulties, according to the release.

Harris Health is also asking patients to be accompanied by no more than one person on any given clinical visit.

As hospitals across the region work to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Texas Children's implemented visitation restrictions March 8 for all inpatient areas, according to a notice from the hospital. This is in addition to visitation restrictions announced March 9 at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and implemented March 10 at Memorial Hermann, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

Texas Children's restrictions limit visitors at the Texas Medical Center Campus, West Campus, The Woodlands and the Pavilion for Women to two adult caregivers or visitors age 18 or older. Siblings younger than age 18 will not be allowed into a patient's room or any common inpatient areas, including activity rooms and playrooms, according to hospital information. Visitors will also be screened upon entering the hospital. Restrictions are in place until further notice.

HCA Houston Healthcare hospitals adopted new visitor policies March 6 as well, according to a notice from the hospital system. HCA hospitals will allow two visitors at a time per patient during visiting hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The hospitals will also maintain separate employee entrances and screen all visitors to the hospital by asking questions about recent travel and current health, according to the hospital system. HCA hospital locations include Clear Lake, Conroe, Kingwood, Mainland, the Medical Center, North Cypress, Northwest, Pearland, Southeast, Tomball, West as well as the Texas Orthopedic Hospital and The Woman's Hospital of Texas.

Published March 9

Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, at 2002 Holcombe Blvd., Houston,
has begun limiting visitations and implementing new screenings for all veterans, visitors and employees, while Memorial Hermann will soon follow for all of its own visitors and patients.

DeBakey began implementing its new policies March 9, while Memorial Hermann’s updated policies will begin March 10, the hospitals announced in separate news releases.

Screenings at DeBakey cover all who enter the hospital’s main medical center and community-based outpatient clinics, while new policies at Memorial Hermann cover all acute-care and rehabilitation hospitals and Convenient Care Centers.

The policy updates come as the Texas Department of State Health Services reports 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Fort Bend and Harris counties as of 10 a.m. March 9.

“Our main goals are to protect our staff and uninfected patients and limit the spread of COVID-19 transmission,” DeBakey VA Medical Center wrote in the policy update. “We know that screening all who enter our facility will slow down our operations, but it is the right thing to do to protect the health and safety of all.”

Included in DeBakey’s screening are three questions: do you have a fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms; have you traveled to countries/regions known to have positive cases of coronavirus in the last 14 days; and have you been in close contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus.

Memorial Hermann will require visitors to take a temperature check and questionnaire at all entry points, including the emergency center, and cleared individuals must wear a color-coded wristband throughout their visit.

“Visitors who are sick or do not meet screening criteria will not be allowed to enter the facility,” the Memorial Hermann release concluded.

Patients at DeBakey are limited to one visitor during 10 a.m.-7 p.m. visitation hours, while Memorial Hermann will limit visitation to two adults per patient per day. Patients in isolation will be limited to one adult visitor per patient per day.

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