Vt. hospitals limit visits to curb flu spread

By Dave Gram
Associated Press / October 20, 2009

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MONTPELIER - Some Vermont hospitals are restricting visitors, 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, in-patient children’s, labor, and delivery and postpartum units, said Dawn LeBaron, vice president for hospital services at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Rutland Regional Medical Center is taking steps to ensure a visitor to someone with swine flu, also known as the 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 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.’’

No change in visitor policy is 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 same policy it has 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 that had been the case for some time.

As for a more restrictive policy because of swine flu, Robinson said, “We have had discussions about it, but at this time, we don’t feel it’s necessary.’’

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 would 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, something scheduled,’’ said White at Central Vermont.

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