Health System Limits Visitation During Influenza Season

BRUNSWICK, Georgia: Oct. 15, 2009 – To help prevent the spread of influenza, including H1N1, Southeast Georgia Health System’s hospitals and Senior Care Centers in Brunswick and St. Marys are enforcing visitor restrictions, including not allowing children under 12 to enter patient care areas.

“Most people think hospitals are places to recover from an illness, but we are also in the business of preventing illnesses,” says Elizabeth Gunn, RN, MSN, interim vice president of Patient Care Services. “Because research indicates children are the main carriers of H1N1, children under 12 will not be allowed to visit patient-care areas in the hospital. Patient-care areas include any area in the hospital where a patient receives care, such as patient rooms, imaging, speech, occupational or physical therapy, and outpatient services. Restrictions do not apply to public areas such as the main lobby, cafeteria, or gift shops.”

Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named children and pregnant women as having a higher risk for developing serious complications from H1N1, Southeast Georgia Health System has decided to enforce the visitation policy as effectively as possible, Gunn says.

“Visitors will be told they either need to return home with their children, or arrange for them to be supervised by an adult in an area outside the hospital or outside our patient care areas. The restriction on children's visitation is to help protect the patients, visitors and staff,” Gunn says. “Women and infants in our Maternity Care Centers are part of the higher risk category for H1N1 and we also have older patient's hospital-wide who are immune-compromised and are more susceptible to the flu.”

Gunn says the Health System will evaluate the visitation restrictions as needed. “The severity of the flu season will affect any decisions regarding hospital visitation, what is best for our patients, their families, our employees, and the community as a whole,” she says.

Some guidelines to consider when visiting the hospital are:

  • Do not visit the hospital if you have symptoms of the flu - runny nose, cough, fever, etc.
  • Visitors should wash their hands often and before entering and leaving a patient's room. Waterless hand sanitizer is available in all patient rooms and on the nursing units.
  • If you have been in recent contact with someone who has the flu, wear a mask during you entire hospital visit.

“Taking steps to prevent infections saves lives, and is the responsible thing to do in the interest of our community,” Gunn says.

The Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus is located at 2415 Parkwood Drive, while the Camden Campus is located at 2000 Dan Proctor Drive, St. Marys. The Senior Care Centers are located at 2611 Wildwood Drive, Brunswick, and 805 Dilworth, St. Marys. For more information, visit www.sghs.com.