A sign at the entrance of Toledo Hospital warns visitors of a new policy that restricts visits by children under age 17 at ProMedica hospitals and long-term care facilities in the region.
With the number of flu cases increasing daily, local hospitals are cracking down on who comes through their doors.
Beginning today, children aged 17 and younger along with individuals who have flulike symptoms will not be permitted to visit St. Luke's Hospital, ProMedica Health Systems hospitals, and long-term care facilities or Mercy hospitals unless they are seeking medical treatment.
Karen Christie, infection preventionist with ProMedica, said the visitation restrictions were necessitated by the growing number of influenza cases the hospitals are seeing.
"We have said this restriction on children visiting is temporary, and as we go on with the flu season - and the flu season really can last through March and a little beyond into the spring - we will re-evaluate this," Ms. Christie said. "So we don't know how long for certain we're going to keep the restrictions on children."
People with flu symptoms - temperatures of 100 degrees or higher with a cough or sore throat - should not visit a hospital or nursing home any time, flu season or not.
"The restriction on people with flu symptoms should be in effect presently and all the time," Ms. Christie said. "People who are sick shouldn't come into the hospital to visit."
Officials with Mercy and ProMedica said exceptions to the new rule may be made in cases where a patient is critically or terminally ill. A nurse manager or infection prevention and control personnel would make that determination.
"The main exception we've tossed around is if we would have a patient with a terminal illness who might not last much longer and has a child who would need to visit or something along that line," Ms. Christie said.
Doreen Cutway, spokesman for St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee, said the visitation restrictions were implemented because of "an increase in pediatric illness activity in our emergency department and in the Maumee community over the past few days."
St. Luke's also is restricting visitors to two per bedside and asking visitors to wash hands before and after they visit a patient room.
Larry Vasko, deputy health commissioner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, said the new visiting rules make sense at a time when health providers are working to contain the spread of the H1N1 virus. For the same reason, he said some area nursing homes have canceled their annual Halloween activities in which children come in to trick or treat.
"That is very much a favorite activity and it was a tough decision to make, but if there was a time to make it, it's now," he said.
Kathy Silvestri, regional health care system coordinator for northwest Ohio, said individual hospitals are deciding whether to restrict visitors based on how the flu has hit their area.
In addition to the metropolitan Toledo hospitals, she said, restrictions have been implemented at Bellevue Hospital, Community Memorial Hospital in Defiance, Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, and Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay.
"The best thing to do is call ahead or check the hospital's Web pages to see if they've implemented restrictions," Ms. Silvestri advised.
ProMedica said new visiting rules are in effect at Toledo Hospital, Toledo Children's Hospital, Bay Park Community Hospital in Oregon, Bixby Medical Center in Adrian, Defiance Regional Medical Center in Defiance, Flower Hospital in Sylvania, and Herrick Medical Center in Tecumseh.
Mercy hospitals that are restricting visitors are Mercy St. Vincent, Mercy Children's, Mercy St. Anne, and Mercy St. Charles.
ProMedica's long-term care facilities affected by the visitor restrictions are Lake Park and the Goerlich Center, both in Sylvania; Charlotte Stephenson Manor and Provincial House, both in Adrian; Herrick Manor in Tecumseh, and the Transitional Care Unit at the Toledo Hospital.
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