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SMH tightens visitation policy to help protect most vulnerable patients from H1N1 virus.

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Sarasota Memorial Hospital tightened its visitors’ policy Monday in an attempt to protect its most vulnerable patients from the H1N1 (swine) flu.

Effective Nov. 2, the hospital raised the minimum age for visitors to 18 for patients at greatest risk for H1N1 – infant and pediatric patients who are particularly susceptible to the H1N1 virus, as well as pregnant and post-partum patients who are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu.

Signs announcing the temporary changes are posted at entrances to the patient care units considered most at risk: Labor & Delivery, Mother-Baby, Antepartum, Pediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In addition to limiting children, only two visitors will be allowed into the NICU and Pediatrics — either both parents, or one parent and an adult support person. Exceptions will be made for visitors under 18 who are parents of hospitalized patients and for certain emergency situations.

“This pandemic is different from our typical flu season, so it means doing things a little differently to make sure we are providing the safest care for our patients and families,” said Pam Beitlich, RN, director of Sarasota Memorial’s Women & Children’s Services.

Hospital officials have asked anyone with flu-like symptoms not to visit the hospital until 24 hours after their symptoms disappear, and all others to use hand sanitizer before and after they visit.

The hospital’s infectious disease specialists will continue to monitor the situation through the coming weeks and months and recommend lifting restrictions when the risks associated with the H1N1 pandemic decline. So far, the hospital has heard few complaints.

"People understand it’s both for the safety of their own children and for the protection of the patients," Beitlich said.

Date Published: October 30, 2009

Media Contact: Kim Savage
Phone: (941) 917-6271

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