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Health

UIHC Further Restricts Visitors Due To COVID-19

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Lindsey Moon
/
IPR
The University of Iowa is temporarily suspending visits for most adult inpatients due to COVID-19. There will be some exceptions, but even those patients will be limited to one visitor.

The largest hospital in the state is drastically cutting back on visitors starting Wednesday, as part of efforts to reduce the risk of spreading the new coronavirus. Officials at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have called the step unprecedented but necessary.

It’s become one of the signature images of the country’s coronavirus pandemic, but still remains jarring: bedridden, sometimes seriously ill patients, resigned to communicating with loved ones over video calls with the aid of health care providers swathed in protective gear and shielded by a mask.

It’s a practice that is coming to the UIHC.

Starting Wednesday, most in-person visits for adult inpatients at the UIHC will be suspended. But there are key exceptions: for people giving birth, emergency room patients, those in critical care, and those facing end of life decisions.

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Credit Courtesy: UIHC
A UIHC staffer helps a patient with a video visit.

But even those patients will get just one visitor. Pediatric patients can also have a visitor, if they’re a parent or legal guardian.

The UIHC’s CEO said in a written statement the limitations on visitors are needed to ensure social distancing and to lower the risk of spreading the highly contagious virus.

“It is critical we maintain the highest levels of safety for our patients and staff, and that means limiting the number of people in our facilities so we can follow social distancing,” CEO Suresh Gunasekaran said in a written statement.

Local public health officials have warned the state is nowhere near the point that residents can return to normal life without risking a surge in cases that could overwhelm Iowa’s health care system.

The state’s number of confirmed cases continues to grow in urban and rural areas, following reports of outbreaks at long-term care facilities and meat packing plants.

While hospital officials consider the restrictions warranted and needed, UIHC Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan told reporters Tuesday this was a tough call to make.

“This was a difficult decision and we have discussed it at length. And we know that it’s the right thing to do to protect our patients, our visitors and our staff,” she said.

The hospital says it’ll help patients use technology to stay in touch with their loved ones, providing devices and language interpretation for those who need it.