HOUSTON – As cases of the coronavirus began appearing in the Houston area, hospitals began assessing policies to protect patients.
Here is a list of hospitals that have changed policies because of COVID-19 and what those changes mean.
Houston Methodist issued the following policy on March 27:
"To protect our patients, visitors, employees and physicians as COVID-19 continues to spread, Houston Methodist campuses will no longer permit visitors.
"Compassionate exceptions will be made, for visitors over the age of 18, in situations including:
- Maternity, postpartum and NICU patients: One healthy partner/parent
- Disabled patients: One healthy visitor
- Critical patients: One healthy visitor
- End-of-life patients: Two healthy visitors at a time
- Discharge patients: One healthy visitor to assist
"If you are in the ER for COVID-19 evaluation or have tested positive for the virus, you will *not* be permitted visitors.
"We encourage everyone to use electronic communication, such as a smartphone or video chat, in place of in-person visitation whenever possible. However, if a person feels an exception is needed, they can speak to a staff member.
"Additional Visitor Policy Information
"Visitors must also be screened by answering questions and having your temperatures checked, and they will be asked to wear a wristband.
"Thank you for embracing these restrictions as a way we can protect everyone in our facilities and do our part to try to stop the spread of this disease. "
"Effective Friday, March 27, Memorial Hermann will no longer allow visitors to enter our facilities until further notice. This policy modification applies to all Memorial Hermann facilities.
"This decision will further protect our patients and the community from the spread of COVID-19 and help conserve Memorial Hermann’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure our ability to continue providing safe care during this time.
"The following limited exceptions to the no visitor policy will be made and these visitors will be required to clear a health screening before entering the facility. Exceptions may vary by location. They include:
- One visitor for laboring women
- One visitor (parent or guardian) for pediatric patients
- Family members for patients in hospice or supportive medicine
- One visitor for patients receiving emergency care
- One visitor for patients at the time of discharge following a surgery or procedure.
- Patients with a disability or other medical condition who need assistance communicating with staff will be evaluated for potential visitor exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
“Memorial Hermann recognizes the importance of family support in the healing process and is encouraging the use of video chat programs on your personal device to visit with loved ones who cannot visit in person.”
More information can be found at MemorialHermann.org.
CHI Texas Division
Effective at 11:59 p.m. on March 24, the CHI Texas Division will be rolling out a “highly restrictive visitation policy," in effect to protect patients, visitors, employees and physicians, the group wrote in a press release.
The following changes will remain in effect until further notice:
- No visitors will be allowed in the hospital.
- Exceptions will be managed by medical decision-makers in the areas of: end-of-life, pediatric, NICU, labor & delivery, and patients who need language services. However, under no circumstances are children under the age of 18 allowed in our facilities.
- Other exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Greeters will be screening at the designated entrances with a list of basic questions to help ensure that individuals who might spread the virus get the care they need while not exposing patients, staff, and other guests.
- Healthcare workers with fever, cough, sore throat, or other flu-like symptoms are not permitted in any area of the hospital, unless seeking care.
- People who have traveled to high-risk areas for COVID-19 or had contact with a person known to be infected with COVID-19 are not permitted to visit any area of the hospital, unless seeking care.
- All patients who are coughing are requested to wear a mask.
The hospital system is asking people to consider other ways to communicate with patients including phone calls, FaceTime, Skype, text or email.
Below are facilities impacted by the modified visitor policy:
CHI St. Luke’s Health (serving the Greater Houston community)
- Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center
- CHI St. Luke’s Health—Lakeside Hospital
- CHI St. Luke’s Health—Springwoods Village Hospital
- CHI St. Luke’s Health—The Vintage Hospital
- CHI St. Luke’s Health—The Woodlands Hospital
- CHI St. Luke’s Health—Sugar Land Hospital
- CHI St. Luke’s Health—Patients Medical Center
CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial (serving the communities in Lufkin, Livingston, and San Augustine)
- CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial Lufkin
- CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial San Augustine
- CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial Livingston
CHI St. Joseph Health (serving the Brazos Valley community)
- CHI St. Joseph Health Regional Hospital
- CHI St. Joseph Health Grimes Hospital
- CHI St. Joseph Health Madison Hospital
- CHI St. Joseph Health Burleson Hospital
- CHI St. Joseph Health College Station Hospital
Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Children’s Hospital announced changes to policies on March 10. Below is the statement from hospital leaders:
“We want the community to know we have a detailed plan in place to identify, isolate and treat suspected cases of contagious infectious diseases. In step with CDC guidelines, we elevated our screening activities weeks ago based on our protocols at all Texas Children’s facilities. Currently, we screen all patients at every point of entry across our health care system in Houston and Austin. We are closely following the CDC and updating our screening protocols based on their guidelines. Texas Children’s Hospital’s highest priority is the health and safety of those we serve.
“For the safety of our patients, Texas Children’s altered our inpatient visitation guidelines. Based on the increasing incidence of COVID-19 in the Houston area and beyond, until further notice, Texas Children’s is limiting visitors.
- Visitations are limited to two adult care givers or visitors, 18 years of age or older. Any ill visitors will be asked to leave.
- Siblings younger than 18 years of age will not be allowed into a patient’s room or in any common inpatient areas, including activity rooms and playrooms.
- Visitors will be screened daily upon entering any inpatient area of the hospital.
- In addition to our visitation changes, frequent handwashing is always encouraged to protect our patients, families, employees and staff from the spread of germs and viruses.”
More information can be found at TexasChildrens.org.
MD Anderson Cancer Center
The hospital announced changes to policies on March 9. Below is the statement that was issued by hospital officials and a video that was included with the statement:
“Your health and safety is our top priority. While there have been no cases of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at MD Anderson, we are enhancing our protocols and screening anyone who visits our campuses to identify if they have traveled in the last 14 days to an area considered to have sustained transmission* such as China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea.
“MD Anderson is screening for patients who exhibit symptoms of respiratory infection including:
- Fever greater than 100.4º F/38º C
- Coughing, or
- Shortness of breath
“To ensure the safety of patients in the hospital, we are limiting the number of visitors on our campus:
- Inpatient, ICU, EC, Pediatrics: Two visitors at a time.
- Pre-and post-operative procedures: If a patient is being discharged home, their primary caregiver will be called to the recovery area for discharge instructions. Otherwise, visitors should remain in the waiting area.
- Outpatient clinics (reception area and exam rooms): Only two healthy visitors who do not have symptoms are allowed to accompany patients in our ambulatory areas, including Houston-area locations, effective immediately.
“If you are on our campuses, you may be asked screening questions multiple times during your stay. While we know this may cause some disruption, we must do all we can to keep our patients and our workforce members safe.
“If you are a patient who has questions or concerns, please contact your care team via MyChart message or phone call. Outside of business hours, please call: 1-877-910-2685.
“We are asking visitors who have traveled – or have a household member who has traveled – to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea in the past 14 days to kindly postpone visiting our campuses when possible.
“Because our cancer patients are uniquely vulnerable to coronavirus, we are committing to increased workforce precautions. MD Anderson has restricted all employee business travel, domestic and international. Travel restrictions are in place through April 29. We will monitor closely and re-evaluate whether an extension is needed or whether travel restrictions can be lifted when there is clear evidence that the global public health emergency is abated.
“In addition, the institution is cancelling Community Relations participation at educational events, like health fairs.
“MD Anderson is unable to assist with travel outside U.S. government restrictions related to 2019 novel coronavirus disease. Patients who are unable to travel to MD Anderson for upcoming appointments should contact their care teams to determine next steps for care.”
More information can be found at MDAnderson.org.
Harris Health System
Harris Health System announced March 9 that workers would begin screening patients and visitors at all points of entry. Below is a tweet about the changes:
Officials issued the below statement about the policy changes on March 10:
"Out of an abundance of caution and because of several travel-related coronavirus cases in greater Houston, patients and visitors entering Harris Health’s hospitals, specialty facilities, health centers, same-day clinics and school-based clinics will be screened for travel and illness. Each will be asked about recent travel history to areas known to have community-spread coronavirus cases and about any current symptoms of cough, fever and respiratory difficulties.
"Additionally, patients are being asked to limit the number of people accompanying them to one (1) person on any given clinical visit. If a patient is unable to meet this visitor guideline, Harris Health staff will work to reschedule the patient’s visit for a later date.
“These safety guidelines are meant to minimize the risk of virus exposure and to ensure the health and well-being of all patients, visitors and staff.”
HCA Houston Healthcare
HCA Houston Healthcare announced policy changes on March 6. Below is the full statement issued by officials:
“At HCA Houston Healthcare, we want to provide you and your loved ones with the best healthcare experience possible. To help ensure your safety and to protect the health and quality care of our patients, we have temporarily modified our visitation policies due to the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in the region.
- Effective immediately and until further notice, each HCA Houston Healthcare hospital will allow two visitors at a time per patient. Visiting hours are 6AM to 6PM.
- Under the new visitation rules, one visitor can stay overnight with laboring mothers, NICU and pediatric patients.
- Entry points at each HCA Houston Healthcare hospital also are now staffed to screen visitors based on the health system’s protocols for identifying and assessing for COVID-19.
- Additionally, all visitors to the hospital will be screened by answering a series of questions about recent travel and current health.
- Each hospital will maintain a separate employee entrance.
“While we certainly understand the importance of patients having friends, family and loved ones by their side, this policy is necessary to help us maintain a safe environment for our patients, colleagues and visitors.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience and support. If a patient or family member has an extenuating circumstance, we will work with them to help accommodate their needs.”
Specific information about each HCA Houston location and the changes that are in effect there can be found at HCAHoustonHealthcare.com.
St. Joseph Hospital
St. Joseph Hospital released a statement regarding its response to the coronavirus and the policy changes being made to protect its patients and staff.
“We are here, as always, to serve all patients. Our commitment to providing care for the ongoing health and well-being of our community is vital, particularly in times like these. To protect our patients and employees from the spread of COVID-19, we are making every effort to keep our facilities safe through enhanced screening of patients and visitors before they enter our facilities. Steward Health Care continues to prepare for the likelihood that patients with coronavirus infections will require treatment at our facilities – including St. Joseph Medical Center.”
As of March 10, our visitor policies have been modified for all St. Joseph Medical Center facilities:
• All patients and visitors who enter the hospital from any access point are being screened immediately upon arrival.
• Any visitor who feels sick and is not seeking medical care is asked to avoid visiting St. Joseph Medical Center facilities until you are symptom-free.
• Children age 12 and under who are not seeking medical treatment will not be allowed to enter the facility.
• Each patient will be allowed two visitors per day.