Vidant sets stricter visitation restrictions for children

Published 8:12 pm Monday, December 22, 2014

Some Vidant Health facilities in the area are implementing stricter visitation limits for patients due to the increasing number of flu cases seen in the area.

As of Monday, children under the age of 12 may not visit patients at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, Vidant Beaufort in Washington, Vidant Edgecombe in Tarboro and Vidant Roanoke-Chowan in Ahoskie, according to a Vidant press release. The purpose of the restriction is to protect hospital patients, staff and visitors from children who may be carrying influenza.

According to Billie Whitfield, infection prevention nurse at Vidant Beaufort, the policy was implemented because of a spike in flu cases. The hospital staff has posted signage at all of its entrances and waiting areas to alert visitors and patients of the policy. Patient access staff and other staff members are observing visitors, screening for those coughing, sneezing or showing other symptoms of being sick, Whitfield said.

“We don’t stop everyone coming in, but if they seem to be coughing or sneezing or give us signs they are sick, we will stop them and screen them and take their temperature,” Whitfield said. “We’re not doing active screening. We’ve seen an unusual amount of positive flu cases this year, possibly the most we’ve seen in a decade.”

The release said, however, children under the age of 12, who are not sick and live in the same household, may visit their healthy, newborn sibling. There are also exceptions to the visitation policy for patients experiencing an end-of-life or critical issue, Whitfield said.

“We would only allow sick children to visit if it was an end-of-life issue or hospice issue,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said the age limit was determined at the corporate level by Dr. Keith Ramsey and his team. Children are not necessarily the ones who are sick but more prone to be less conscious about what they touch, making sure they wash their hands and other habits consistent with keeping germs at a minimum.

Currently, hospital staff are taking other precautions through designating a specified area for sick people to wait in the waiting rooms, as well as a specified area sick patients are seen in the hospital’s emergency department, Whitfield said. Also, if sick patients are unable to stay three feet from other patients, staff is providing masks and tissues in waiting areas to aid in prevention of germ transmission.

Whitfield said flu vaccinations missed the mark this year, but hospital staff is trying to make the public more aware of what they can do to prevent its spread.

“Flu tends to mutate rather quickly, and they based their vaccine on what was prominent last year,” Whitfield said. “That’s what we’re seeing this year. If you got the flu vaccination, you got some A-Flu immunity, and it helps make the flu not as bad, but you still could get the flu.”