Due to increased influenza activity reported throughout North Carolina and in the local area, Sampson Regional Medical Center has imposed visitation restrictions until further notice.
Mandatory visitation guidelines are hospital-wide and restrict visitors under the age of 18 or adults of any age who have fever or flu-like symptoms, with those restrictions going into effect today (Wednesday). They could last until the end of March, possibly longer, depending on the severity of the flu season.
In order to provide the best quality of care in a safe environment, patients must be protected, hospital officials said.
“This means managing their exposure to contagious illnesses, such as the flu,” stated Wanda Holden, RN, Infection Control Coordinator for Sampson Regional.
As a result, the hospital is imposing the special measures to protect its patients, staff and visitors from spreading the flu. Individuals with flu-like symptoms should not visit the hospital until they are free of those symptoms for 24 hours, Sampson Regional officials warned.
Flu symptoms including fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat or muscle or body aches.
As of last Thursday, Sampson Regional had received just one official flu admission, vice president Amber Cava said, but she noted that the amount of cases seen within the community and in surrounding counties prompted the precautionary measure.
“We’re watching what is happening in the environment and we have seen within the hospital and in the community over the past two to three weeks a definite increase,” said Cava of sick patients. “Flu cases within private practices and within the emergency room are increasing.”
All visitors to the hospital are being encouraged to perform good hand hygiene upon entering or exiting the facility or when coming and going from a patient’s room. Hygiene stations are located throughout the hospital, stocked with face masks, tissue and hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer pumps are also located at the entrance to every patient room.
“In addition to getting the flu shot, respiratory hygiene and hand washing are the most important steps people can take to help prevent the spread of flu,” said Holden.
Imposing visitation restrictions is just one of many steps the hospital is taking to protect its patients and public.
Healthcare personnel who develop fever or flu symptoms are asked not to report to work. Isolation measures are in effect for patients with flu, which requires staff entering the room to wear a face mask and, at times, a gown and gloves. Staff are also required to wear a mask during flu season if, for any reason, they have an acceptable reason for not receiving the annual flu vaccine, which is a requirement of employment at Sampson Regional.
The hospital expects visitation restrictions to be in place through at least March, but will reevaluate and extend that period depending on the volume of flu cases at that time.
“Other hospitals are seeing a higher number of sick patients and some are over bed capacity,” said Cava.
While Sampson Regional is not yet at that point, the measure to restrict patients at the hospital was described by Cava as “a proactive” move to cut down on a spike that would cause such a situation locally.
“We’re trying to be proactive by doing this,” she said, “because that would be a tough situation to mitigate if we got to that point.”
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