Regional Medical Center in Anniston will allow one visitor or caregiver per patient starting Friday, the hospital announced Thursday, following changes to Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Safer at Home” order.
Ivey announced Wednesday that the order would be extended through Nov. 8. The updated order states that all hospitals will ensure any patient who does not test positive for COVID-19 — or who is not suspected to have the virus — may be accompanied by one caregiver or visitor at a time. Accompaniment is “subject to reasonable restrictions imposed” due to factors including county positivity rate, the facility’s status for COVID-19 cases and visitor symptoms, among others.
Louis Bass, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said Thursday evening that the facility had dropped down to 18 COVID patients. The last time there were so few patients was July 12, he said, early into the county’s climb into high coronavirus case numbers and COVID patient loads in the 50s.
Bass said hospital workers were glad to be able to say yes to visitors and caregivers again. They tend to be beneficial to patients and even staff, Bass said. While there had been some friction in the emergency room tied to the visitation policy, the community had generally been understanding, he said.
“It’s been a difficult time, we know, for many families,” Bass said by phone. “I hope this is a first good, positive step, and hopefully numbers will continue to decline.”
Visitors must be at least 16 years old, wear a mask during their visit and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, a process that includes a temperature check and discussion about possible exposures to the virus, according to the visitation guidelines posted at www.rmccares.org. Visitors can enter at the main entrance from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through the emergency room entrance on weekends and holidays. Visitors won’t be allowed into the hospital after 7 p.m. unless the clinical care team requests them.
Outpatients can have a single visitor help them into the hospital and through registration, the document states. Maternity patients can have a single visitor accompany them throughout their stay; other visitors can rotate in as necessary. When the death of a non-COVID patient is anticipated within 24-48 hours, two visitors are allowed, and those positions can also be rotated with other visitors.
Bass said that depending on the development of COVID cases in Calhoun County, the state — and by extension, the hospital — may have to revisit the visitation policy and potentially tighten restrictions again.
“But I’d love to be able to talk again in a month or two from now and say, ‘We didn’t have to do that,’” Bass said.