Hospital visitation limited, elective surgeries canceled

Hospitals across the region are limiting visitors and canceling elective surgeries, as they ramp up preparations to treat increasing cases of people infected by coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

As of 11 a.m. on March 23, The Florida Department of Health reported 1,096 confirmed cases of Florida residents and 75 cases of non-Florida residents, for a total of 1,171.

Of those, 73 involved Hillsborough cases and 13 cases in Pasco.

Statewide, there have been 14 deaths.

In response to the evolving threat, BayCare Health System, AdventHealth West Florida Division, and HCA Healthcare West Florida have announced changes in their visitation policies.

BayCare Health System said its changes would take effect on March 21.

“Only in certain, specific instances, will visitors be allowed into facilities,” according to a BayCare news release, issued on March 20.

“We regret this is necessary, but for the protection of our patients, team members, physicians and our community, it is imperative that we limit the number of people in our facilities,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, chief medical officer for BayCare Health System.

“The few visitors who will be allowed into hospitals will be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the disease resulting from novel coronavirus. Those who are deemed a risk will be restricted from entering the facility and may be referred to an Emergency Department.”

Visitors may still be allowed, if approved by the hospital administrator on duty, in these circumstances:

  • Inpatient: Labor and delivery, postpartum, pediatrics and Neonatal Intensive Care
  • End of life situations
  • Behavioral Health Unit
  • Emergency Room: Waiting room only
  • Outpatient procedures: Waiting room only when accompanying a patient receiving sedation

St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz and Morton B. Plant North Bay in New Port Richey are BayCare hospitals within or near The Laker/Lutz News coverage area.

AdventHealth hospitals in and near The Laker/Lutz coverage area are AdventHealth Carrollwood, AdventHealth Dade City, AdventHealth Tampa, AdventHealth Wesley Chapel and AdventHealth Zephyrhills.

“This is an unprecedented time in health care, and our priority is to keep our patients, team members and ultimately our greater community safe, while we continue to treat those who need our care,” Mike Schultz, president and CEO, of AdventHealth West Florida Division, said in a news release.

Hospitals across the region are limiting visitors. To be sure you have the latest information, check the website.

Before allowing a visitor to enter, according to a news release, HCA Healthcare West Florida said its staff will be asking these questions:

  • Have you had a fever and signs/symptoms of respiratory illness (cough, flu-like symptoms or shortness of breath)?
  • Have you traveled outside the country within the last 14 days (including a cruise)?
  • Have you been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 without wearing the proper protective equipment?
  • Are you currently being tested for COVID-19?

If a potential visitor answers yes to any question, he or she will not be allowed to enter the facility, except to seek emergency medical assistance.

Medical Center of Trinity and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point are both HCA Healthcare West Florida hospitals.

On another front, hospitals are holding off on elective surgeries, as per an order by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

AdventHealth West Florida Division announced in a March 20 news release, that it will immediately:

  • Postpone all inpatient surgeries that are not time-sensitive
  • Postpone outpatient surgeries that are not time-sensitive
  • Postpone all outpatient procedures in diagnostic centers that are not time-sensitive

“AdventHealth will provide surgery only to patients whose needs are imminently life-threatening, with malignance that could progress, or with active symptoms that require urgent and immediate care” the release says. “This decision allows us to further plan for the increased need for hospital beds, resources, and advocate for patient and team safety.”

Similar policies are in effect at other hospitals in the region.

Also, efforts continue to expand testing for COVID-19.

BayCare Health System, which initially operated seven testing sites, announced it had screened more than 6,100 people and collected specimens for testing from nearly 3,500 during five days of testing.

The hospital chain recently announced that on March 23 it would be consolidating its COVID-19 test collection sites to high volume locations and to provide geographic access.

It now is operating its testing sites at one location each in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties.

The Hillsborough location is at BayCare Urgent Care, 3440 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Suite 100, in Tampa. The Pasco location is at BayCare Urgent Care, 4821 U.S. 19, in New Port Richey.

BayCare is concentrating on using its limited test supplies to identify patients who have the virus. Patients should be referred by a physician and should have current symptoms — cough, fever, shortness of breath — and meet other criteria recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, according to a BayCare news release.

Patients should bring documentation from a physician that they have been referred for testing.

Tips for helping to prevent COVID-19:

  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Keep frequently touched surfaces and objects clean.

Source: Florida Department of Health

Published March 25, 2020

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