CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa hospitals screening patients and visitors for respiratory illness upon entrance

Massive hospital campus restricting open entrances

Signage is posted at virus screening checkpoint Friday outside the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City
Signage is posted at virus screening checkpoint Friday outside the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Members of the public are asked whether they have been running a temperature, have a cough or have felt ill. They then have their temperature taken and receive a sticker letting staff know they have been screened. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Before entering the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, all patients and visitors will be screened for symptoms of acute respiratory illness as the institution continues escalating its response to the novel coronavirus.

Beginning immediately, screeners will funnel patients and visitors through two entrances into the expansive hospital campus with many buildings, wings and parking ramps. They’ll check for fever, cough and difficulty breathing, among other things, and tag each person deemed safe with a sticker.

The screening process will expand from two to more entrances in the coming week.

“We recognize this may be inconvenient,” said a Thursday email from UI Hospitals and Clinics Chief Executive Officer Suresh Gunasekaran to faculty and staff. “However, it is a needed precaution to protect the health and safety of our patients and employees.”

It’s a practice recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

The hospital is treating at least one patient who has tested positive for COVID-19, the new coronavirus that earlier this week was declared a global pandemic. Hospital officials declined Friday to provide more information about that patient’s condition, citing privacy laws.

As of Friday evening, Iowa reported 17 positive cases — all but three in Johnson County. Officials said all were travel-related; most trace back to the same recently-returned Egyptian cruise.

UIHC faculty and staff won’t be screened at this time, though Gunasekaran urged they use hand hygiene precautions and contact supervisors if they develop respiratory symptoms.

Entrances open now

• The main hospital entrance in the Roy Carver Pavilion will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The entrance is be open to patients, visitors and other members of the public, but not hospital employees:

• The level 2 skyway into Roy Carver Pavilion from parking ramps 2 and 3 will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This entrance is open to both employees and patients.

ENTRANCES later

These four entrances will be for patients, visitors and other members of the public but not hospital employees:

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• The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Entrance will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week;

• The Pomerantz Family Pavilion, level 2 from parking ramp 4 will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week;

• The Pomerantz Family Pavilion West Entrance, cancer center, will be open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday;

• And the Pomerantz Family Pavilion main lobby entrance will be open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

These entrances will open to certain patients:

• The Family Medicine circle drive near parking ramp 4 will be open for Family Medicine Clinic patients and MyChart video- or phone-visit follow-up appointments;

• The emergency room will be open as usual, though the public won’t be able to go inside to the main hospital from the emergency department. Staff can access the hospital with a badge.

Several entrances will be open to staff and volunteers only — including the general hospital west entrance from parking ramp 1; the tunnel into the lower level of Pomerantz Family Pavilion from parking ramp 4; the south and north doors connecting the Children’s Hospital and the Pappajohn Pavilion; the shipping and receiving dock by the mail room; and interior doors from the College of Medicine to the general hospital.

UIHC earlier this week announced other new policies and protections in light of the growing COVID-19 problem. It’s facilitating video visits for patients who suspect they have the coronavirus or the flu, allowing health care providers to evaluate patients safely.

And it’s opened a new clinic to care for patients with COVID-19 or other flu-like symptoms.

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The hospital has strict guidelines for admitting patients with COVID-19 to keep staff, faculty and other patients safe from its spread. And it’s set limits on visitors: two adults 18 or older per patient, with some exceptions for patients in palliative or critical care.

Children can visit only if they’re immediate family and considered by the health care team “essential for the patient’s well-being.”

The new Influenza-Like Illness Clinic that UIHC has set up can test for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, like the flu, “safely and effectively,” Gunasekaran said. Patients would go home to wait for results with specific care instructions.

If follow-up care is necessary, they’d be directed to the emergency room, which would be alerted to the coming arrival. The hospital has not publicly disclosed the clinic’s location due to patient privacy concerns, but has confirmed it’s on the UIHC campus.

For video visits, hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Patients can make appointments using MyChart or by calling 319-384-9010.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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