Nathan Littauer suspends all visitation
GLOVERSVILLE — Area hospitals this week closed their doors to all visitors following guidelines from the state Department of Health to protect and maintain the health and safety of patients and staff amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.
Locally, Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home and St. Mary’s Healthcare of Amsterdam on Wednesday announced the suspension of all hospital visitation until further notice following guidance from state DOH.
Both Nathan Littauer Hospital and St. Mary’s will permit compassionate exemptions for family members or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of life care. Visitors meeting these exceptions must be screened for symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, or fever and potential exposure to someone with COVID-19. One visitor will also be allowed to accompany a hospital patient when medically necessary.
Notices alerting the public to the suspension of visitation are present in all hospital entrances and parking lots.
The suspension at Nathan Littauer Hospital follows earlier restrictions that began Monday reducing visitor hours and limiting visitors to one designated person per hospital stay. Visitations to all nursing homes statewide were previously suspended beginning on March 13 until further notice following an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“It’s not an easy situation, because these are our neighbors but they understand that these are part of a statewide movement to flatten the curve and we want to keep our patients, staff and community safe and this is a really good way to do that,” said Cheryl McGrattan, vice president of marketing, public relations and community relations at Nathan Littauer.
Speaking together Thursday, both McGrattan and Richard Hyde, director of marketing and communications at St. Mary’s, said community members have been understanding since the suspension was initiated.
“Everyone is being very compliant and very understanding, we are not seeing any disagreement at front door,” said McGrattan.
“Everyone is appreciating that we are screening and understanding when we have to turn someone away,” agreed Hyde.
The directive from the state DOH also asks hospitals to attempt to assist patients in accessing alternate forms of communication to meet their needs. Although most patients are able to communicate with others over personal devices, St. Mary’s is helping those without their own technology connect with family or friends over Skype on the hospital’s iPads. McGrattan said Nathan Littauer is also offering these types of supports at the nursing home to ensure residents are able to connect with family members.
In addition to the new precautions at hospitals, the suspension of visitors applies at primary care centers and other sites in the NLH and St. Mary’s networks. Both NLH and St. Mary’s are asking patients to call their healthcare providers before scheduled appointments to receive any special instructions. McGrattan noted that at pediatric sites children are currently allowed to be accompanied by one parent, after checking in parents and children are asked to wait in their vehicles until they are called inside when an exam room is ready to prevent crowding in waiting rooms.
Although “well” or routine visits are continuing at both St. Mary’s and NLH, McGrattan said many patients are currently choosing to postpone visits.
Both St. Mary’s and NLH are also asking patients in need of immediate medical attention to call urgent care or emergency room facilities before arrival when possible if they are experiencing common symptoms of the coronavirus or may have been exposed to someone who was confirmed to have the virus.
“We might direct them somewhere else,” explained Hyde. “But always if there is an emergent need of any kind, we encourage people to come to the emergency room immediately.”
St. Mary’s has established COVID-19 hotline as a community resource for those experiencing mild symptoms of the coronavirus or individuals who have come into contact with individuals confirmed to have the virus. The hotline is operated by trained staff to provide guidance concerning testing, care and protective protocols. Guidance can also be provided by calling primary care providers or local health departments.
“We understand that this is a quickly evolving situation, however what you are seeing is a lot of collaboration with regional hospitals and health systems. We are making sure the necessary resources are in place, we are communicating and we’re ready to protect our community,” said McGrattan.
The St. Mary’s Healthcare COVID-19 Hotline is available Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. by phone at (518) 770-7521.
For more information on the novel coronavirus and methods to prevent its transmission visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/.