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Asante hospitals lift limits on patient visitors

Photo from Providence Health & Services A visitor offers comfort to his hospitalized friend.
Providence hospital keeping limits for now

Asante is lifting limits on patient visitors at its three Rogue Valley hospitals as of Friday.

The change comes as COVID-19 cases plummet locally and statewide.

Most hospital patients were limited to one visitor, with some exceptions. Asante operates Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, Ashland Community Hospital and Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass.

Asante is still asking people to be thoughtful about planning visits with hospitalized friends and family members.

“Even though COVID cases are down, the virus continues to have a presence in our community, and the threat of transmitting the virus remains. As such, we ask people to please try to limit the number of visitors per patient to help reduce the chance of infecting hospitalized patients and our employees,” Asante said in a press release announcing the change to its visitation policy.

For now, Providence Medford Medical Center hasn’t changed its policy of allowing one visitor for most patients. Providence runs a multistate hospital network that includes eight Oregon hospitals.

“At this time, we do not have any changes to announce at Providence Medford. Our regional team reviews our visitation policy frequently based on the latest information available. Our practice for updates has been to change it for our eight hospitals statewide at the same time,” said Julie Denney, senior manager of communications for Providence Medford Medical Center.

Providence allows more visitors for certain patients, including child patients, pregnant women during labor and delivery, patients with disabilities and people getting mental health care.

Asante had similar exceptions to its one-visitor-per-patient policy.

For the past two years, Asante said it had screeners at all visitor entrances and patient visitation restrictions in place to help protect patients and employees from the spread of COVID-19. Screeners will move to other jobs within Asante.

Asante said it is lifting its visitor restrictions in accordance with updated guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In its new guidelines, the federal agency said visitation restrictions were used to lessen COVID-19 infection rates, while recognizing “that restricting visitation from family and other loved ones has taken a physical and emotional toll on patients.”

At Asante hospitals, visiting hours on nonrestricted patient care units are from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Restricted units, such as critical care, the neonatal intensive care unit, behavioral health, family birth and pediatrics have specific visitation guidelines due to the nature of patient care in those areas.

Asante will continue to display signs that screen visitors for illness and other issues upon entering facilities. Signs also remind visitors of safety protocols such as masking and hand hygiene. Masks should be worn in all Asante facilities and should be removed only when eating or drinking.

Although Oregon’s mask mandate for public indoor spaces has been lifted for most places, masks are still required in health care settings.

Asante said if the community or hospitals see another COVID-19 surge, restrictions on visitors could be put back in place.

On Thursday, hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties were caring for 16 patients with the virus, according to hospitalization data.

The latest number is a vast improvement from when they were caring for 145 patients with the virus Jan. 27 during the surge triggered by the omicron variant, according to hospitalization data.

The most crowded day of the pandemic for Rogue Valley hospitals was Sept. 1, 2021. They were filled to overflowing and caring for 223 COVID-19 patients. The summer and fall surge was fueled by the delta variant.

Health experts believe most Oregonians are now protected from severe illness or death from COVID-19 because of immunity they gained from vaccination, recent infection or both. Immunity wanes over time so people should follow guidelines on getting COVID-19 booster shots.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.