University Hospitals Restricts Visitations To Curb COVID-19 Spread

The new UH visitation policy will only allow one visitor per patient per day, beginning Tuesday, September 21, 2021. [University Hospitals]
The new UH visitation policy will only allow one visitor per patient per day, beginning Tuesday, September 21, 2021. [University Hospitals]

Starting Tuesday, University Hospitals will allow one visitor per patient each day as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase.

It's a change from the former policy of one visitor at a time, but there were no limits on the number of daily visitors.

UH follows the Cleveland Clinic, which announced a similar change to its visitation policy last week.  UH is restricting visits to all patients in hospitals, emergency departments, and outpatient facilities whether they have COVID-19 or not.

MetroHealth has not changed its policy, which currently allows two visitors per patient.

UH has exceptions to the policy, and patients and visitors can find more information on the UHhospitals.com visitor information webpage. For pediatric patients, two parents or guardians are allowed. Labor and delivery patients are also allowed two visitors. 

The visitation policy change is being implemented to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, said Dr. Robyn Strosaker, chief operating officer of UH Cleveland Medical Center.

The new visitation policy will be in place until COVID-19 trends change in Northeast Ohio, Strosaker said. 

UH and other Cleveland-area hospitals did ban visitors in 2020 to prevent COVID-19 spread, but Strosaker said they didn't want to do that again. 

"We did have a period of time where we had no visitors, and we saw how challenging that was on our patients," Strosaker said. "And so, learning from that, we thought it was really best to try to balance and try to move to a visitor policy where we have one designated visitor per day per patient."

Allowing visitors can improve a patient's mental health and benefit the healing process, but UH also wanted to limit COVID-19 spread, Strosaker said.

"We know that the more people that we have in an indoor space, the higher the risk of spread of COVID, and so we thought given what's going on right now with the delta variant and the transmissibility and the rate of COVID in our community, it made sense to decrease the number of people in our hospitals to keep everybody safe," she said. 

According to the press release announcing the change, individual visitation needs may be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to address special circumstances or to ensure access to clergy.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many hospitals began restricting elective procedures to ensure bed capacity and personal protective equipment for staff, but Strosaker said there are no plans to do that again. 

"When we stopped elective procedures in the spring of 2020, we saw there were real health outcomes for our community," she said. "We saw patients present with last-stage strokes, heart disease, cancers, and we feel that this may have adversely impacted their health outcomes."

UH officials have not announced if the hospital will comply with a new federal vaccine mandate for health workers. MetroHealth issued its own independent COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees and Cleveland Clinic officials announced the system would comply with the mandate after it was announced by President Biden Sept. 9.

UH is still encouraging--but not mandating--employee vaccination, and that they are still reviewing the federal mandate, Strosaker said

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