UPDATE: Coronavirus changing procedures for local hospitals, health systems

Coronavirus, flu have AHN changing rules for visiting patients

PITTSBURGH — UPDATE 3/16/20: Officials with St. Clair Hospital announced immediate changes on patient visitation. For most areas of the hospital, visitation will be cut down to two, 2-hour periods.

Under the revised policy, for most areas of the Hospital, visitation hours will be restricted to two, 2-hour periods, and patients in those areas of the Hospital will be limited to one visitor per visitation period. In certain circumstances, limited exceptions will apply. Patients in the Family Birth, Pediatric, and Psychiatric units of the Hospital will be permitted to have up to two visitors during visiting hours, which are defined on a unit-specific basis. Visitors will be screened upon entering the Hospital, and must wash their hands upon entering and exiting both the patient’s room and the Hospital. Visitors must also wear a Hospital-issued identification badge.

Family and friends are asked to refrain from visiting patients if they are experiencing any symptoms of illness themselves, such as fever, cough or sore throat. No visitors under the age of 18 will be permitted.

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ORIGINAL STORY 3/11:

New rules for visiting patients are being implemented by Allegheny Health Network because of the coronavirus, as well as the flu.

The new temporary policy will limit the number of visitors in a patient’s hospital room to one.

In addition, people who might be sick are being asked to not visit AHN hospitals unless they are seeking treatment.

“At a time of heightened public health concerns related to both COVID-19 and a particularly severe influenza season, it is critical that we take every step possible to protect our patients and caregivers from the risk of exposure to infectious disease,” Dr. Brian Parker, AHN’s chief quality officer, said in a statement. “Patient and caregiver safety is our highest priority and we greatly appreciate the support and cooperation of visitors in the efforts we are making to minimize health risks to their loved ones.”

To promote a safe environment throughout AHN’s hospitals -- including in waiting rooms, lobbies and other common areas -- large groups are being discouraged from showing up to visit individual patients.

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Use of FaceTime and Snapchat are being recommended for people to connect with patients.

The health network itself is also ramping up telehealth capabilities, giving people the option to access to clinicians from the comfort of their homes via video visits. The service is available to AHN patients who have signed up for MyChart.

AHN said it implemented a comprehensive pandemic response plan in early February to screen and care for patients with symptoms of an infectious respiratory disease and to meet criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The enhanced screening processes are being carried out at all access points across the health network, including its hospital emergency departments, surgery centers, urgent care clinics, rehabilitation facilities, physician practices and home health services,” a news release said.

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If you are feeling sick and need help, the news release included the following information from Parker:

“While calling 911 or going to the hospital is always best if you are experiencing a significant health emergency, the CDC and other health authorities are recommending that people who have flu-like symptoms call their doctor first to be screened before going into the office or to the emergency department. We are asking our patients to do the same, or to call the AHN 24/7 Nurse phone line (412-Nurse4U).”