Due to this season's outbreak of influenza across the region, Trinity Health placed several restrictions to help protect their patients and staff, as well as people in the community. The strict policies went into effect on Jan. 14 and have yet to be lifted.
According to the policies placed by Trinity Health, visitors to the hospital are permitted to see only immediate family members. Visitors should not come to the hospital if they are ill with upper-respiratory symptoms. People exhibiting upper-respiratory symptoms who must visit a patient in the hospital are required to wear a mask. People visiting patients with influenza symptoms will be limited to only persons who are necessary to the patient's emotional well-being and care.
Because of the vulnerability of the residents to influenza at Trinity Homes, all visits to residents of the long-term care facility are suspended unless absolutely necessary. Children will not be permitted to visit during these restrictions.
Trinity Homes, shown here, currently has a no visitors policy in place due to the widespread flu outbreak in the community. All visits to residents of Trinity Homes are suspended unless absolutely necessary, because of the vulnerability of the residents to influenza.
For the most part, people have been complying with the new policies, said Randy Schwan, vice-president of Trinity Health.
"They're guidelines, a request. We don't guard our doors so it's hit or miss," he added. However, the staff will ask people to leave if they notice someone with upper-respiratory symptoms or wear a mask if visiting someone with the flu, Schwan noted. "The community understands and know they can wait to visit or send an e-greeting," he added. "Overall, (the restrictions) have helped, but they're not 100 percent effective."
The restrictions are looked at everyday, Schwan said, and they want to go back to normal as soon as possible.
"The outbreak has weakened, but we're not ready to lift the restrictions today. It's hard on families and staff and we're interested in lifting them as soon as possible," Schwan said.
Schwan is encouraging everyone to get a flu shot if they haven't already. The flu shot is about 60 percent effective, he said. "We're making the shot as convenient as possible and people have been taking us up on it, which is encouraging," Schwan added. The flu shot is still available and still effective.
Flu shots are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Health Center- Town & Country, 831 S. Broadway, Suite 102 and 104; and at Convenient Care, Health Center- Medical Arts, 400 E. Burdick Expy.
Flu shots are also available on Saturdays and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. at Convenient Care, Health Center- Medical Arts. Cost for the shots is $30 and are payable at the time of service. Cash, local checks or credit cards are accepted.
Medicare patients should bring their Medicare card so that Trinity Health can direct-bill Medicare. Appointments for the flu shot are also available through your physician's office.
There have been some complaints about the restrictions, though. Schwan said some family members who live a distance away and friends want to come in and visit. "It's understandable, but hard to discern to make an exception," he noted. "Exceptions are hard to allow. We try to be fair and equitable and we understand. It's hard for the visitors and staff."
That has also been the most difficult part about enforcing the restrictions. "We know that people like to visit their friends and family in the hospital. The restrictions are to protect both the patients and staff," Schwan explained. "Sometimes we think we're more immune than we are. Some visitors would like an exception made and that's hard."
During this season's flu outbreak, it's important to practice good hand and cough hygiene. Trinity Health recommends covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; covering your cough or sneeze with your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hand, if you don't have a tissue; and putting your used tissue in the wastebasket and washing your hands. Another recommendation is to consider wearing a facemask to protect others if your coughing or sneezing continues. Also, it's recommended to wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
"We look forward to the day when the restrictions can be lifted and it appears to be coming sooner than we thought, but not today," Schwan said. "The more that people get vaccinated, the better the chance of reducing (the flu's) occurrence."