Community Urged to Protect Patients & Themselves from Exposure
Due to a steady increase in influenza and influenza-like illness in Emergency
Departments, Urgent Care centers and physician offices in our region,
Valley Health System’s six hospitals are temporarily altering visiting
policies beginning Wednesday, January 3, to limit the risk of exposure
to patients other visitors, and staff.
Effective Wednesday morning, visiting hours will be limited to four hours
a day, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors must be age
18 or older and no more than two people may visit a patient at the same
time. Visitors who have not received the flu vaccine are being asked to
wear a mask during their visit. Those with any symptoms of flu-like illness
– cough or fever – are urged to stay home.
Facilities affected by the change include Winchester Medical Center, Winchester
Rehabilitation Center, Warren Memorial Hospital, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital
and Page Memorial Hospital in Virginia, and Hampshire Memorial Hospital
and War Memorial Hospital in West Virginia. Visiting restrictions will
remain in place until the flu season concludes.
“We have been closely monitoring Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
and Valley Health data on the incidence of flu and flu-like illness and
believe we need to do everything we can to protect our patients from exposure,”
said Nicolas Restrepo, MD, Vice President for Medical Affairs at Winchester
Medical Center. “We always discourage anyone with cold or flu-like
symptoms from making hospital visits, but because individuals with flu
can be contagious before they have symptoms, we ask the community to work
with us to limit the chance of exposure.”
One 24/7 visitor (spouse, significant other, parent or adult child, or
direct caregiver) may be designated to remain with the patient at all
times and will be exempted from visiting limitations. Other exceptions
include patient visitation immediately after surgery, at the end of life,
and in other situations determined by nursing leadership on a case by
case basis. Hand sanitizer and masks are available for visitor use at
Family and friends visiting patients at Winchester Medical Center will
be required to wear a Visitor ID badge, available at the Visitor Information
desk inside the main entrance to the South Tower. Visitors for patients
in the North Tower (ICU, Labor and Delivery, NICU and Observation unit)
are asked to sign in and receive a badge inside the main South Tower entrance.
“While we appreciate the benefit a personal visit from family or
friends can provide, we encourage the use of other forms of communication
– cards, phone calls, email, FaceTime or Skype – to brighten
the day of a hospitalized patient,” Restrepo added.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness which causes mild to severe
illness, sometimes death, among older people, young children, and those
with certain health conditions.
The CDC recommends that individuals who become sick with flu-like symptoms
(fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache,
chills and fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea) should stay home
and avoid contact with others except to get medical care. Most people
with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs.
Valley Health reminds those in our community who have flu-like symptoms
and need medical attention to seek out their family practitioner or a
Valley Health Urgent Care or Quick Care rather than come to their local
hospital’s Emergency Department. Unless an individual is very young
or very old, has significant risk factors, or is experiencing severe symptoms
such as shortness of breath or high fever, he or she should not need to
call 911 or visit the Emergency Department.
Valley Health officials also stress the importance of anyone who is experiencing
respiratory symptoms to be vigilant about “respiratory etiquette”
to prevent the spread of illness. This includes covering one’s mouth
and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; disposing of the tissue
after use; and washing hands with non-antimicrobial soap and water, alcohol-based
hand rub, or antiseptic hand wash after contact with respiratory secretions
or contaminated materials. Hand washing is especially important since
the flu virus can survive 2-8 hours on surfaces.
It is also not too late to get a flu vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine
protects against the three influenza viruses that research suggests will
be most common. Vaccines are available at Valley Health Quick Care and
Urgent Care centers and primary care practices, among other locations.
For more information on visitation changes, visit