Harris Regional Hospital imposes strict visitor controls


In light of the spreading COVID-19 outbreak, Harris Regional Hospital has imposed visitor restrictions at its Sylva location. 
According to Harris, the hospital has thoroughly evaluated the current updates, recommendations and guidelines provided by the CDC, NC Department of Health and Human Services and local health agencies and has implemented complete visitor restrictions at Harris Regional Hospital based on those reports. 
“While caring for our patients is our top priority, we are passionate about the role we play in social responsibility and not only caring for our patients but protecting them, also,” the hospital said in a statement on Tuesday. “We don’t take our visitor restriction lightly but believe strongly in playing our role in stopping the spread of germs.”
In a letter from Harris CEO Steve Heatherly on March 17, the CEO explained the hospital’s official stance in regard to COVID-19.
“As the situation regarding the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, so does our hospital’s response,” Heatherly said. “In addition to measures we’ve taken including restricting visitors, closing common areas, and adhering diligently to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Harris Regional Hospital is taking more precautionary steps to help ensure the safety of our patients, employees and visitors.
“Effective immediately, we will be limiting entry points to our facility and screening everyone – employees, patients and any permissible visitors – who enters the building.” 
The following provides additional detail about both safety measures at the hospital:
•  Limited Entry Points: Until otherwise notified, everyone entering the facility should come through the main lobby or the west entrance. The emergency department entrance will be open for emergency room patients only. All other entry points will be closed until further notice.
• Screening Process: All patients, visitors and staff entering the facility will be screened with questions regarding respiratory symptoms and travel history, per CDC recommendations. Patients with symptoms will immediately be provided masks and managed per CDC guidelines. Based on the screening, visitors may also be asked to take their temperature, speak further with someone, or come back at a later date. Screening will occur upon every entry. 
• Permissible Visitors: To protect our patients while continuing to meet the health care needs of our community, Harris Regional Hospital will be enforcing a zero visitor policy. Understanding that some scenarios may require a visitor for emotional wellbeing or as support, we have outlined the permissible visitors:
For inpatient care, visitors should observe the following guidelines. 
A visitor may be allowed to visit loved ones who are gravely ill. The visitor will be asked to wear a mask and practice proper hand hygiene, while in the building. Visitors with signs/symptoms of respiratory illness will not be permitted to visit under this exception. 
A visitor may be allowed when their presence is essential to the patient’s emotional well-being. The visitor will be asked to wear a mask and practice proper hand hygiene, while in the building. Visitors with signs/symptoms of respiratory illness will not be permitted to visit under this exception. 
For Labor and Delivery:
No visitors and no siblings. One support person may be allowed to remain throughout the stay. The support person will be asked to practice proper hand hygiene while in the building. The support person will not be permitted if showing signs/symptoms of respiratory illness.
“We know that these increased precautions may seem concerning,” Heatherly said. “We do not want to cause alarm – but we do want to send a clear message to our community that we are prepared, responding appropriately and are committed to protecting the well-being of our patients, visitors, employees and community.”
Heatherly said, “These increased safety measures do not mean that you cannot access the hospital or your providers. Please seek medical care as needed. And if you are concerned you may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, call your provider in advance of going to his or her office. Of course, if you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the emergency room.