PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While patients at Lifespan hospitals are now able to see family and other loved ones in person while in the hospital, Monday the hospital group said it will limit the amount of visitors from two to one.

The hospital group announced last week it has lifted some visitation restrictions following recent guidance from the R.I. Department of Health (RIDOH).

In a statement, the hospital group said it recognized the value of visitors, “and will continue to work with the RIDOH, evaluating and implementing visitor policies that balance health and safety.”

However, hospital leaders told Eyewitness News in the last week, the number of visitors trying to enter Lifespan hospitals had impacted its ability to ensure safe social distancing.

Monday morning, Lifespan hospitals started to notify patients they would only be allowed one visitor instead of two, and the change would take effect for visiting hours beginning at 5:00 p.m. The change will affect non-COVID-19 patients at Rhode Island Hospital, Newport Hospital, and The Miriam Hospital.

Cathy Duquette, PhD, RN serves as Lifespan’s executive vice president for quality and safety, in addition to Chief Nursing Executive.

Duquette says right now, Lifespan hospitals are just about at maximum capacity.

“For example, at Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s hospital this morning, we had well over 650 patients in beds in the hospital, and that is just not counting of people come in for routine testing or patients who present to the emergency department or for ambulatory surgery,” Duquette told Eyewitness News over a video call Monday morning.

Over the last several days, Duquette says Lifespan has seen as many as 500 visitors at a time trying to see patients, all in the scheduled two-hour windows for visitation.

“As we walk through the corridors, if we have more than two patients in a room, you could have two visitors per patient, and it makes it a little bit challenging for social distancing,” Duquette said. “Having two people to process with screening instead of one is really slowing down the ability to get visitors in quickly to see their loved ones.”

While you may have your own cloth face covering, you’ll need to instead wear a surgical mask at all times, which Lifespan says it can provide, and visitors also can’t bring in any outside food or drinks.

“As you know, in order to eat or drink, you have to remove your mask, and even for the patient, it just makes the environment not as safe as it could be,” Duquette said.

“We know this is incredibly difficult for family members to be limited in the amount of time, and we’re working to find alternative means to do so,” Duquette added.

There are some exceptions for the number of visitor, including end of life care, pediatric patients, and moms in labor.

Guidelines for visiting pediatric patients>>>

Lifespan noted for the safety of its patients, employees, and visitors, there are several precautions in place. The hospital group said visiting hours and policies will be adjusted as needed, in accordance with state guidelines and requirements.

  • Visitors will be screened for travel and illness before visiting patients, and will not be allowed entrance if they are symptomatic, have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person in the last 14 days, have traveled from an area requiring 14-day quarantine, or are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
  • Visitors must wear a surgical mask at all times, covering both the nose and mouth. Lifespan says masks will be provided if they do not have one, or it is deemed inappropriate.
  • Visitors must remain in patient rooms and are not allowed to visit the cafeterias or gift shops. No food or drinks can be brought inside.
  • Visitors are expected to practice physical distancing, maintaining at least six feet between themselves and others while in the hospital.
  • Visitors are still encouraged to use remote visitation (e.g., FaceTime or Zoom calls) to the extent possible in lieu of in-person visitation.
  • Visitation hours are limited to certain times, and visitors must exit patient rooms and the hospital building by the end of visiting hours.

Current hospital visiting hours>>>