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HMH tightening visitor guidelines

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Hospital aims to provide ‘healing’ environment

By Marty Finley

Hardin Memorial Hospital is tightening  its visitor guidelines in hopes of fostering a better environment for patient safety.
The changes started in December and are being adopted in the wake of new federal guidelines that prohibit hospitals from barring visitors based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
While HMH will not deny patients for these reasons, hospital staff is tightening regulations for visitors in situations where a patient’s health could be compromised because of surgery or illness.
“The point is to create an environment that is healing,” said Michelle Murphy, HMH director of marketing and public relations.
Malinda Ryan, infection control coordinator at HMH, said the changes primarily affect patients who have been placed in isolation because their health is compromised and could be at greater risk for infections and hospital-acquired infections — often triggered by ailing visitors.
As a result, individuals visiting patients in isolation will be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves and gowns, to reduce the likelihood of germs spreading, Ryan said.
Also, hand sanitizer will be available outside of each patient’s room, she said.
To avoid confusion, a brightly colored sign will be placed on each patient’s door indicating what type of protective equipment must be worn in the room.
At the same time, the hospital has limited the number of people visiting at one time to two per patient, unless an arrangement has been pre-approved by the patient’s nurse, Murphy said.
And children under the age of 12 are prohibited to visit at-risk patients in isolation — a requirement that has expanded to all inpatients. Murphy said children under the age of 12 will only be allowed to visit patients for “therapeutic reasons” if it is pre-arranged by a nurse.
The new requirement, she added, is designed to protect the health of both the patients and children.
“Their immune systems are not fully developed,” she said.
Those who are sick or nursing a cough or runny nose also are encouraged to stay home.
“It could potentially be deadly (for the patient),” said Roy Williams III, security manager for HMH.
Murphy said an e-card system developed by HMH is a way to show you’re thinking about a patient without subjecting them to more illnesses. The hospital is in the process of installing a kiosk in the cafeteria in which visitors without Internet access can design and send an e-card, she added.
New security measures also are being rolled out, requiring any visitors past 10 p.m. to sign a log at the nurse’s desk and receive a visitor’s pass.
Williams said the new security requirement will make the hospital safer and provide security with knowledge of the approximate number of people on each floor in case of an emergency.
Murphy, meanwhile, encouraged seeking the counsel of the staff if the new rules prove confusing.
“When in doubt, ask,” she said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or at mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com