CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa hospitals banning most visitors amid coronavirus response

As of Sunday, UIHC reports 29 COVID-19 inpatients

Guest services workers wait Monday for arriving patients, workers and visitors at the main entrance at the University of
Guest services workers wait Monday for arriving patients, workers and visitors at the main entrance at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Starting Wednesday, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will temporarily ban most visitors to its campuses and clinics to maintain “the highest levels of safety for our patients and staff” as it continues to admit more coronavirus patients.

The new restrictions temporarily suspend all visitors tor adult patients and limit visitors for pediatric patients to one per day — and that one person must be a parent or guardian.

The restrictions apply to all UI Health Care patient care facilities, from the main UIHC campus to its neighboring UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and to off-site clinics including UI QuickCare and UI Urgent Care locations.

The visitor restrictions will continue until further notice.

Some exceptions will be allowed such as for patients having a baby, those in critical care, those facing “end-of-life care decisions” or those in the emergency room, UIHC officials said.

And all visitors to any UIHC facility must be 18 or older and healthy. As has been the practice for weeks, all visitors and employees are screened for COVID-19 symptoms upon entering.

“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,” UIHC Chief Executive Officer Suresh Gunasekaran said in a statement about the unprecedented restrictions.

To date, UIHC has treated 52 COVID-19 inpatients. As of Sunday, it had 29 virus inpatients.

Two of those are children under 18. The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital has treated three children for COVID-19 so far.

All COVID-19 patients are kept in isolation, according to Gunasekaran, who noted UIHC remains open for other “essential health care services.” That means more than 1,000 other patients continue to come to the campus every day.

“To date, over 95 percent of these patients have no symptoms of COVID-19,” he said in a statement. “We are instituting these measures so that all patients can continue to come to our campus and know that they will be safe and taken care of.”

In conjunction with the new visitor prohibitions, UIHC is providing additional services for hospitalized patients — including tapping staffers to serve as “communication liaisons” between patients and the care team and providing updates to the patient’s point of contact “at the patient’s wish.”

Additionally, patients who don’t have their own devices like smartphones will receive help from a communications liaison using hospital-provided technology. Mobility and interpreter assistance also will be available.

“UI Hospitals and Clinics will continue to go the extra mile in our COVID-19 preparations to keep Iowans safe,” Gunasekaran said. “I apologize to families for this inconvenience. Our teams have done a lot of thoughtful planning to support communication and care decisions for families and patients while in our care.”

Face shields

Another UIHC temporary change this week requires all its employees to wear face shields at all times at work — except when eating.

“Your face shield is your safety shield,” according to a UIHC announcement. “Put your shield on when you come in to work and remove it as infrequently as possible throughout the day.”

All UIHC workers have or are being provided a shield. Hospital epidemiology officials believes a shield is “the best way to keep our teams protected from the spread of COVID-19 because it covers the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as helps you from touching your face.”

Workers can pick up shields at an on-campus deployment center and were advised to keep them and clean them for repeated use.

Treatment and care

UIHC has assembled an “airway management team” of experts from anesthesia, emergency medicine, pulmonary crucial care, pharmacists and others to help adult patients needing “airway securement.”

The team will serve COVID-19 patients or those suspected of having the disease.

The hospital is creating a different plan for pediatric patients.

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

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

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