Hospitals across the state are trying to stop the spread of the flu by cutting down on the number of visitors to patients.
Marion County Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine says the temporary hospital visitation policy will take effect this Friday, as the number of patients visiting emergency rooms for flu-like symptoms has almost doubled over the past week.
Almost 4 percent of total emergency room visits are now for the flu, and while that is high, Caine points out that it is still below the 10-percent level reached during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.
Caine says all hospitals and health networks that participate in the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety have agreed to implement the least restrictive option of the 2009 Patient Visitation Tier 1 Policy.
This includes Marion County hospitals within IU Health, St. Vincent Health, Franciscan St. Francis Health, and Community Health Network, as well as Wishard Hospital and the Roudebush V.A. Medical Center.
The tier 1 option of the patient visitation policy restricts hospital access to visitors with influenza-like illnesses, fever or cough, visitors under the age of 18, unless special arrangements are made, and visitors beyond immediate family, partner or significant other.
Caine says it is only the second time for activating these restrictions, and it is the first time that hospitals have implemented the policy at the same time as a group.
IU Health Bloomington Hospital will implement a voluntary visitor restriction policy due to the increasing number of flu-like illnesses in the community.
IU Health Bloomington Hospital will also ask that patients have only two healthy adult (18 years or older) visitors at a time. Healthy adult means those not experiencing any flu-like symptoms, and who have not been exposed to the flu virus in the last week.
This policy is temporary, says Amanda Roach, spokesperson at IU Health Bloomington Hospital, but will be in place throughout flu season.
“The health and safety of our patients, employees, providers and volunteers is of highest priority,” she says. “Because of the increasing number of flu cases we’re seeing in the community, we believe now is the right time to implement this voluntary restriction and proactively help stop the spread of the virus.”
IU Health says the flu virus is spread when droplets from coughs or sneezes come into contact with another person’s eyes, mouth or nose.