Hospitals cope with coronavirus-mandated visitor restrictions

Hospitals cope with coronavirus-mandated visitor restrictions

At the time they most want their loved ones around them, many hospital patients now find themselves alone or with just one visitor.

Visitation policies vary by hospital and have evolved as novel coronavirus has spread, but most in Southern California now allow visitors only after they’ve been screened for possible coronavirus exposure and many only allow visitors to certain areas.

That’s the case at St. Jude in Fullerton, which doesn’t allow visitors to see most patients staying in the hospital. Staff make exceptions on a case-by-case basis, the new policy states.

Mariah Sabino, a Norwalk resident, qualified for one of those exceptions, which allowed her husband Marco to join her as she gave birth — but not her parents.

“It is a surreal moment,” Sabino, 28, wrote from her hospital room as she waited for doctors to induce labor. This is one of the biggest events of my life aside from graduation, or wedding.”

She said it was “difficult to accept that my parents won’t be there to meet their grandson,” as “no phone call or FaceTime could replace them being there.”

But she understands.

“I need the staff taking care of me to be healthy when delivering my baby, so I am accepting of this,” she wrote. “They are putting themselves at risk every day.”

Riverside Community Hospital, too, allows only visitors who have a negative screening for coronavirus. Even then, only one visitor is allowed per patient, and only for certain types of patients — children, those approaching the end of life, or the mentally disabled, for example.

The screening includes showing no symptoms and having no contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19, said spokesman Antonio Castelan.

“We’re hoping the community understands that we need their help,” Castelan said. “If you do this, it helps us care for the people who need it and stop the virus from spreading farther.”

Similar policies are in place at other hospitals in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

Hospitals list the policies on their websites, several of which have been updated at least once since the declaration of a coronavirus emergency March 4.

For the Rev. John Gunningham, who has visited patients since 2010, the restrictions are the longest he’s gone without comforting patients in person.

Reche Canyon Rehabilitation & Health Care Center set up video chat with people staying there, and he talked to Catholic patients there.

“There’s a couple of people that look forward to me coming, that I’ve talked to regularly for a long time,” he said. “It kind of makes my day.”

He’s now working to set up video chat with other hospitals.

Sabino is back in the hospital as a visitor, as her newborn son, Milo Bryant Sabino, has been in the newborn intensive care unit since birth after a stroke caused a brain injury, she said.

She urges people to follow the social distancing rules.

“Rules are in place for a reason. Listen to them,” she said. “The longer we have to wait for this situation to calm down, the longer we will be at our homes and have social distancing in place.”

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