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Baystate revises visitor policy in wake of rising COVID-19 cases

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/11/2022 4:52:13 PM
Modified: 1/11/2022 4:51:22 PM

GREENFIELD — In response to rising COVID-19 case numbers, Baystate Health announced changes to its visitor policy, including at Baystate Franklin Medical Center on High Street.

Effective Jan. 11, one visitor per day is allowed for non-COVID-19 adult patients in the intensive care unit, rather than the previously allowed two, according to a Baystate Health press release. The same change applies to non-COVID-19 pediatric patients in the intensive care unit.

All patients in the Pediatric Emergency Department are allowed one guardian at a time, as opposed to the two that were previously permitted. For obstetrics patients, one designated care partner is allowed throughout the patient’s stay; for surgery patients, no guests are allowed at the time of check-in, though one is allowed when the patient is discharged.

For non-COVID-19 inpatients, there is no change and one visitor per day is permitted. The policy of no visitation for COVID-19 patients, whether an inpatient or in the Emergency Department, remains unless there is a designated exception.

And finally, non-COVID-19 patients in the Emergency Department may still have one care partner if there is space to practice social distancing. Baystate Health is also allowing them in the waiting room now if there is space.

“While we are urging potential visitors to defer visitation until the cases of COVID-19 decline in the community, our caregivers understand it can be stressful when a loved one is hospitalized,” said Denise Schoen, chief patient experience officer at Baystate Health. “If a child or other family member or friend is unavailable to visit, it can be even more difficult.”

The revised visitor policy follows new guidance from the state in an effort to ensure acute care hospitals have sufficient capacity to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. In addition to Gov. Charlie Baker directing all hospitals to cancel or postpone all non-elective surgeries, effective Dec. 27, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) has asked hospitals to defer visitation until further notice.

Dr. Armando Paez, head of the Infectious Disease Division at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, said the Baystate Health system has 311 COVID-19 patients.

“This is the highest we’ve had in terms of COVID in-patients,” Paez said. “The hospital is full. The COVID patients tend to stay longer, so that means they occupy a spot for patients who may need a spot for non-COVID hospitalization.”

Paez said that of Baystate Health’s patients with COVID-19, roughly 75% have not been vaccinated.

Fortunately, he said, there are treatments available.

“Starting (Wednesday), we have a Franklin mobile unit for monoclonal treatment,” he said, referencing a treatment that mimics the body’s ability to fight off infections. “They will be able to treat some (COVID-19 positive) patients who are at high risk for developing severe illness.”

Additionally, Baystate Health has been allocated the COVID-19 treatment pill that was recently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“In addition to this, we have been allocated oral medications for COVID, from the (Department of Public Health),” Paez said. “We do have a centralized process in trying to allocate it because these are scarce resources. We prioritize those at high risk of developing severe illness.”

Paez said that while the omicron variant is associated with a milder disease, especially among those who are vaccinated, it is currently the predominant variant circulating in the New England region. Cities and towns in Franklin County, including Deerfield and Greenfield, have recently identified their first cases to be sequenced as the omicron variant.

“Hopefully, we peak and then there’s a drop in the number of cases,” Paez said. “A quick rise and a quick fall, like other countries have experienced.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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