Southcoast Health suspends visitation, with some exceptions


NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — Southcoast Health has once again changed its visitation policy.

The hospital group said, “due to the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community and for the safety of our patients and healthcare workers,” no visitors will be allowed at its hospitals or emergency departments.

At Southcoast testing sites alone, Dr. Dan Hackner, chief clinical officer at Southcoast Health, says the percent of positive COVID-19 tests has been in excess of 30%.

“We maintain strongly in maintaining visitation, but we’re responding to the facts on the ground,” Hackner said.

He says in addition to cases “skyrocketing” in the community, there are currently over 160 people hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Southcoast hospitals.

The hospital group is also facing ongoing staffing challenges, and notes on its website its Middletown urgent care facility is temporarily closed as a result of the recent COVID-19 surge.

“We’ve also seen risk from visitors bring in COVID into the hospital,” Hackner said.

Southcoast Health visitor policy as of 1/12/22.

The exceptions for visitation for adult inpatient care or inside the emergency department include circumstances like end-of-life care, legal guardians or required health proxies, or a support person at the discretion of the care team.

A birth partner or parents accompanying minor children are allowed to visit a family-centered unit. However, no visitors under the age of five, including siblings are allowed to visitors post-partum patients, and no visitors under the age of 12 are allowed in the pediatrics department. 

All approved visitors will have to show proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test, following a stricter visitation policy that was put in place a month ago.

The test, according to the hospital, must be a PCR test taken within 24 hours of the visit, and the result must be provided by a lab. This excludes rapid antigen and at-home tests.

Dr. Hackner says Southcoast Health staff are fully vaccinated with some “rare, explicit exceptions,” noting will there is “a degree of safety there,” the biggest concern would be to vulnerable individuals who are immunosuppressed.

There is “some hope” on the horizon, Hackner says, evidenced by viral loads in wastewater declining, followed by declines in community cases and hospital admissions.

“So we will see a decline in cases,” he said.

“We regret any limitation of visitation at this time, and we’ll reevaluate very frequently and hope to expand visitation as conditions on the ground change,” Hackner added.

Southcoast Health has facilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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