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Ballad Health updates, limits visitation in response to COVID-19 spread

Submitted by Meaghan Smith
Ballad Health

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – In response to a rapid, sustained increase of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Appalachian Highlands, Ballad Health is implementing additional visitation restrictions in its facilities. Effective Friday, July 17, at 11 a.m., Ballad Health’s latest visitation policy and patient guidelines stipulate:

•A single, designated patient-support person – or visitor – is allowed for the duration of each patient’s visit or hospital stay.

•The visitor will only be allowed onsite from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

•Visitors are still not allowed in our behavioral health or long-term care facilities, or during outpatient procedures.

•Exceptions include neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and rooms with a pediatric patient which may have two guests per patient, and those guests must be the parents or legal guardians. They are permitted at all times.

•Exceptions may be made in Ballad Health Medical Associates clinics, labor and delivery, emergency departments and in the pediatric emergency room at Niswonger Children’s Hospital where one guest is permitted at all times, and during extenuating circumstances or in the case of end-of life-care.

•Designated visitors will still be required to wear a mask, and they will be screened for signs of illness before they enter any patient care area.

“Ballad Health understands the positive impact of visitors and loved ones on our patients’ well-being, and when COVID-19 cases were lower, we were happy to loosen visitation restrictions and permit patients to change out their designated visitor,” said Dr. Clay Runnels, Ballad Health’s chief physician executive.

“However, the unabated, steep increase of COVID-19 cases in our region and nation have necessitated stricter policies. We understand this is a difficult time for our patients and their loved ones; however, these precautions are crucial in the face of the continued COVID-19 threat.”

Ballad Health’s clinical leadership will address any exceptions to this policy directly with affected patients and/or their families.

Ballad Health will continue prohibiting visitors under 18 unless they qualify for an approved extenuating circumstance. Additionally, no visitation of COVID-19 positive patients or patients who are under investigation, except during end-of-life situations, will be permitted. The no-visitation policy will continue to apply to behavioral health patients, long-term care patients and those undergoing outpatient testing, unless that patient needs special assistance.

Visitation for palliative care, hospice, comfort care and critical care patients, who are not COVID-19 positive, will remain the same. It includes:

•A maximum of four visitors may be present in the patient room at any one time.

•Visitation should primarily be limited to immediate family members/significant individuals to the patient.

•Visits should be planned, and the schedule communicated to the screening team at the facility’s entrance.

•Considering an unknown length of the process, the family visits may occur daily if desired and as scheduled above.

•Visitors should proceed to the patient room and exit the facility directly.

•Individual exception to the number of family members may be considered if approved by nursing leadership and based on the patient’s care provision requirements at the time of the visit request.

“During these challenging times, I want to applaud our team members, nurses and doctors for really stepping up and providing emotional support to our patients and really becoming their surrogate family,” Dr. Runnels said.

In addition to visitation restrictions, all Ballad Health facilities are taking crucial safety precautions, including enhanced physical distancing measures, increased infection control and new processes and systems to safeguard patients’ care journeys.

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms and believes they might have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523.

These updated visitation policies will remain in place until further notice. Ballad Health will issue communication when the restrictions are lifted or modified. COVID-19 news and updates will continue to be shared to www.balladhealth.org/COVID19.

At Ballad Health, you are #SafeWithUs.