New hospital visitation rules put a strain on Jacksonville families

In an attempt to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, hospitals have limited the number of people allowed into the hospital.

Local hospitals cancelling patient visitation, with some exceptions
Local hospitals cancelling patient visitation, with some exceptions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local hospitals are canceling patient visitation — with few exceptions — and it’s causing a unique challenge for families with relatives battling life-threatening illnesses, injuries and recovering from surgeries.

The changes are an attempt to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. According to the CDC, it’s for the best. But some families who have loved ones who aren’t able to communicate in the hospital say they are being denied entry.

Tiffany Howard got to hold her four-month-old son Rookledge for the first time since his open heart surgery on Tuesday.

He’s been in Wolfson Children’s Hospital during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tiffany and her husband have had to switch back and forth visiting because only one parent per patient is allowed into the NICU.

“We went back to the pre-op area on Tuesday the 17th and they still let both parents in and that’s when everything started changing within that hour of him going back into surgery,” she said.

Tiffany says her husband was asked to leave, but he thought he could walk the hallways.

“They were like no, you have to actually leave the entire hospital,” Howard said. “It was nice having a nurse’s aide and they’re very like helpful and everything but still not having your best friend. It’s hard. Your son’s chest is open he’s on bypass, he’s not feeding at all. It’s scary. It’s definitely very scary.”

At Baptist Health campuses across Northeast Florida, they’ve cut back on who is allowed into the hospital.

Only one parent or guardian is allowed into the NICU or to visit pediatric patients

For people delivering a baby, only one spouse, partner, guest or doula is permitted at a time

For patients physically and mentally unable to communicate one legally designated caregiver is permitted

For inpatient surgery one loved one can wait until the surgery is complete but must leave after a care team provides a post-surgery update.

Hospitals, like UF Health, have created similar policies going along with CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of the new coronavirus.

While Tiffany has been able to see her child, albeit not under the best conditions, other families say they have not been so lucky.

One family who wrote into News4Jax said:

“Our mother is on a ventilator in critical care all alone. We at least want her to have me, her daughter, and her healthcare surrogate to come in and check on her. Administrators are refusing us all unless the person is dying and we need to say our last goodbye.”

Baptist Health said "visitation is reviewed on a case by case basis” and they “do not want any loved one to have additional stress during this difficult time.”

Tiffany and her husband are days away from being able to take their little one out of the hospital.

Despite the challenge, she says she understands why they’ve had to make the changes.

“I mean, it’s been pretty crazy a lot of people are very upset but I mean you have to also understand you don’t want to spread the virus, but then again it’s also some of the ways are doing it almost seems like they’re spreading it more by like sitting people completely out. I feel like there could’ve been a better way,” she said.

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