Virus prep alters visitor policies

Published 8:12 pm Thursday, March 12, 2020

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Heath care facilities in Troy are making taking steps to help reduce the potential for the coronavirus from entering their facilities.

At Troy Regional Medical Center, CEO Rick Smith said recently implemented changes to visitation policies are designed to protect the health of not just patients, but the public as well.

“We’re making adjustments to our visitation policy because we want to protect patients first and foremost, but also team members, physicians, and the public,” Smith said on Thursday.

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The hospital this week restricted visitors under the age of 16 and limited in-room visitors to two at a time. Anyone with flu-like symptoms will be required to wear a mask when they enter TRMC.

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Thursday reiterated that no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 or Coronavirus have been identified in Alabama. However, more than 1,500 cases have been confirmed in the United States, with 39 deaths, and more than 134,000 people in at least 111 countries. The pandemic has killed more than 4,970 people worldwide.

Efforts to contain the spread of the virus have stepped up in recent days in the United States, as officials have cancelled sporting events and large gatherings and universities such as Troy University have altered class delivery options to keep students off campus.

Herb Reeves, dean of student services at Troy University and EMA director for Pike County, said he is coordinating a meeting on Monday with representatives of health providers throughout Pike County, city and county officials and representatives of the Alabama Department of Public Health. “I expect after this meeting on Monday we will have more information to share with the public,” he said. “The good news is as of right now (Thursday morning) we still don’t have an active confirmed case in Alabama.”

He also said local health care providers and officials are being proactive in preparations.

“We’re doing everything we can to stay up to date with this,” Smith said. “We have calls every day – sometimes more than one a day – with the CDC, the state department of health … making sure we have the latest information about the outbreak.”

Staff training and preparation for outbreaks or public health emergencies is part of the ongoing training at the hospital, Smith said. “It’s all about our team members knowing their role in responding to an incident like this … and at the hospital we practice this constantly.”

Other medical facilities are making adjustments to their visitor policies as well in an effort to protect potentially high risk groups of people.

At Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center and Nobel Manor are asking for patience, understanding and support from the community in their efforts to protect their residents and staff and to prevent any transmission within the community.

Sonya Knox, Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center infection control nurse, said as always TH&R encourages its staff to wash their hands as well as visitors to the facility.

“Right now, we are re-educating our staff on hand washing and cough etiquette,” Knox said. “We are screening our staff and residents for symptoms and have sent letters to all resident representatives notifying them that we are limiting visitors.”

Knox said entrance to the facility will be restricted for anyone who has traveled outside the United States in the recent 14 days.

“We have pamphlets at the front door advising visitors about hand washing and we are working on visiting hours,” Knox said. “A lot is up in the air right now but a lot of changes will be coming next week. The coronavirus has been confirmed in Mississippi so it’s getting close to home.  A lot of changes will be implemented for the good of our residents and those who visit the facility.”

Dale Law of Noble Manor said plans and regulation are being instituted to keep the manor’s residents safe and healthy as the coronavirus comes closer to home.

Steps are being taken to protect the facility’s residents and staff and to prevent any transmission within the community.

“We will suspend all volunteer activities on campus until further notice,” Law said. “While we appreciate their serves greatly, it is imperative that we restrict and reduce the number of people coming into our facility until this virus threat has ended. We are asking that no children be brought to our facility due to their high risk for exposure.”

Law said a sign has been posted on main entrances asking individuals with symptoms of the virus or possible exposure to the virus not to enter the buildings.

“Starting on Monday, we will limit access through only one main door to each building,” she said. “We request that family and friends limit visits to these facilities. Those who enter the buildings will be asked to register their visits and to provide a phone number in case we are required to contact individuals regarding possible exposure.”

Visitors will also be asked to wash their hands or to use hand sanitizer before visiting a resident.

Law said Noble Manor staff has been well trained on proper hand washing and infection control techniques.