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Providence joins several Alaska hospitals restricting visitation due to rising COVID-19 cases

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 2:33 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2021 at 8:44 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - People are no longer allowed to visit most adult patients at the Providence Alaska Medical Center, other than for a couple of exceptions, following a change in policy due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Anchorage.

The hospital transitioned back to visitation level red on Monday mainly because of recent case counts, but Mikal Canfield, a spokesperson for the hospital, said other factors played a role in the change.

“There’s a number of factors that go into it,” he said. “There’s staffing issues and things like that.”

Canfield was unable to offer more details on the factors behind the decision, but he added that hospital-acquired infections were not one of the reasons the hospital restricted visitations.

According to the hospital’s system for allowing visitation, under level red, visitors are not allowed for most adult patients but one parent or guardian is allowed for patients under 18 years old. Additionally, patients in the hospital for maternity services are allowed one care partner, and surgery patients are allowed one care partner if they have had a negative COVID-19 test.

Providence’s visitation guidelines state that there are two exceptions to allow someone to visit a patient.

  • A patient’s care team may make exceptions if a visitor is critical to physical or emotional care during an appointment.
  • Patients at end of life may have up to one additional visitor at a time (two visitors max).

Providence had previously been on level red for much of 2020, which led people to protest outside the hospital to visit their loved ones last year.

The hospital stayed on level red for a while, then went to the orange level on April 1 and dropped again to yellow on April 22. The transition provided less restrictive adult patient visitations that allowed one to two people, depending on the adult patient’s medical status.

The visitation level maintained at yellow until a surge of cases overtook Alaska this summer, forcing the hospital into level orange on Aug. 9. At level orange, adult patients were only allowed one or no visitations at all for specific situations.

Providence isn’t alone; several hospitals across the state have limited or altered their visitation policies to account for high transmission of COVID-19 in their communities. Also in Anchorage, Alaska Regional Hospital suspended all visitations on Wednesday as well, “except for very specific circumstances,” according to Communications Director Kjerstin Lastufka.

The exceptions are that children under 18 may have one caregiver present, Neonatal ICE patients may have a parent, obstetrics patients can have one labor partner, and families of patients who are at the end of life will be allowed visitation, she said via email.

Alaska Native Medical Center has also limited visitors on its campus. According to a visitation policy that went into effect on Aug. 2, no visitors are allowed for adults, except those at end of life care. Children can have two parents or guardians. There are no visitors are allowed for adult COVID-19 positive adult patients, while children with COVID-19 will be allowed one parent or guardian.

The full visitation policy with all exceptions can be read on the hospital’s website.

Elsewhere in the state, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center has limited visitation as well. Director of Marketing and Public Relations Alan Craft said in an email that the hospital does not allow visitors for COVID-19 patients.

He said that, effective Wednesday, the hospital also enacted a more restrictive visitation policy for patients who do not have COVID-19. According to the new policy, there is one visitor allowed per patient in the hospital. The exceptions are that children may have two caregivers, obstetrics patients can have two people for labor support and family of patients with disabilities and patients at the end of their life are allowed to visit.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Soldotna’s Central Peninsula Hospital will allow one visitor per patient, said spokesperson Bruce Richards. COVID-19 patients will not be allowed visitors.

“There’s virtual visits for COVID-positive patients with I-Pads, Facetime, and the different apps that area available,” Richards said.

Homer’s South Peninsula Hospital has suspended visitation for most patients. Pediatric patients, obstetrics patients, those having surgery or those at the end of their life are allowed one designated visitor per day, according to the policy on the hospital’s website. In the hospital’s Long Term Care wing, approved visitors by appointment are allowed.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct that the hospital’s visitation policy change was not due to hospital-acquired infections, rather than patient-acquired infections.

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