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Maine hospitals restricting visitors due to coronavirus, COVID-19 concerns

Maine Med, Maine General Health and Northern Light Health are restricting visitation to protect patients and staff against COVID-19

MAINE, USA — Editor's note: You are starting to hear the term 'flattening the curve' as a way to stem the tide of coronavirus cases. The above video explains what that means. 

Hospitals around the state of Maine are enforcing temporary visitor restrictions in response to the coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak.

Northern Light Health announced Monday that it would issue the following changes in response to COVID-19. 

Visitation policy

In all cases, visitors will be subject to screening at the entrance and will not be permitted to visit if they are exhibiting COVID-19 virus symptoms. Patients and families are encouraged to connect with their local Northern Light Hospital or continuing care facility for specific information about the visitation policy in their community.

Additionally, Northern Light Health is establishing appointment-only, drive-up testing in many communities. This approach helps us keep patients and staff safe, expedites care for all patients, including those visiting for routine care, and reduces the use of and potential infection risk associated with putting on and taking off personal protective gear. Initially, drive-up testing will be available by referral only for patients who meet the clinical criteria – patients must call their primary care provider’s office for a phone screening and referral.

Elective and non-essential care

Effective Monday, March 16, elective surgeries, office visits, diagnostic tests, endoscopies, and other procedures that can be considered “nonessential,” will be assessed for postponement until a later date. Each case will be evaluated by the patient’s healthcare provider to determine if it should be postponed. Patients will be contacted by their healthcare provider’s office if their procedure, visit, or test can be rescheduled. 

“Family and friends have an important role to play in the healing process,” said Maine Medical Center President Jeff Sanders. “But that needs to be balanced against the need to keep our patients, care team members and communities safe during this outbreak.”

The new guidelines for visitors at Maine Medical Center and Maine Medical Partners are as follows:

  • Visitation hours at MMC are now limited to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
  • Patients and visitors must enter Maine Medical Center’s main campus at 22 Bramhall Street in Portland through the main entrance or the P8 connector to the visitor garage only. Only patients requiring emergency care should use the emergency department entrance.
  • There will be a limit of one visitor per patient for both hospital and ambulatory care. (This includes all visits to hospital, medical practice, clinic, urgent care and emergency department locations.)
  • Because children can carry COVID-19 without showing symptoms, no visitor under the age of 18 will be permitted.
  • Limited exceptions to these policies can be made, such as for pediatric patients or comfort care (palliative).
  • Family meetings may include one family member in-person, with others participating by speakerphone.

All visitors will be screened upon entering a Maine Medical Center facility. This means a care team member will be at each entrance to ask a series of screening questions, including whether they have a fever, a new cough in the last 14 days, shortness of breath, a sore throat or a runny nose.

Individuals will also be asked if they have been in close proximity to someone who is currently sick with the COVID-19 or any other respiratory illness within the past 14 days. 

Sick individuals may be asked to leave or be re-directed to an appropriate point of care.

Elective and non-essential care

The nine local health organizations within MaineHealth are suspending elective medical procedures and postponing non-urgent office visits to its practices in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Those cancellations are expected to take place by end of the day Friday.

“Supporting public health efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Maine is one of the approaches we can take to protect our patients, families and care teams,” said Joan Boomsma, MD, chief medical officer of MaineHealth. “Keeping patients at home who are scheduled for non-urgent services rather than having them come to the hospital or office will help keep them safe and reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Maine General Health in Augusta is implementing similar visitor restrictions: 

  • Restricting visitors who have traveled to areas with outbreaks as identified by the CDC within the past 14 days and anyone with respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat) regardless of travel history.
  • Restricting all visitors from MaineGeneral Rehabilitation and Long Term Care facilities. Exceptions may be made in end-of-life situations.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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