Sky Lakes Medical Center today (Thursday, January 3) announced the safety measure of restricting visitors to parts of the medical center in an effort to help prevent the spread of flu. This measure is commonly taken by hospitals during flu seasons.

Beginning immediately, anyone 18 and younger will not be allowed to visit patients in the Emergency Department or in the inpatient care areas of the medical center.

“Our primary responsibilities are to care for acutely ill patients and to ensure the safety of the people who provide that care,” said Annette Cole, RN, Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President for Patient Care Services at Sky Lakes. “One of the best ways we can do both is to prevent the spread of germs, and we can help accomplish that by restricting visitors.”

The younger population is more likely to spread or contract the flu virus.

Further, individuals with flu-like symptoms – coughing, sneezing, sniffles, fever and the like – are strongly discouraged from visiting patients, she added. “People who are ill should refrain from visiting to avoid the spread of germs to those who are hospitalized.”

An increasing trend in the number of flu test requests as well as suspected and confirmed flu cases prompted the restrictions, Cole said.

Sky Lakes leaders are sensitive to individual circumstances, so there will be case-by-case exceptions to the restrictions, she added. “The nurse in charge of the shift will be able to make those decisions when the questions arise,” she said. “In those cases, visitors will be asked to take special precautions to minimize the risk to patients.”

In many cases, the best way for people to extend their sympathies to hospital patients is by a phone call or a card, Cole said. “Most patients recover better with rest. Having visitors sometimes isn’t the best way to get rest.”

Another way to prevent the spread of infections is hand hygiene, said Rose Walker Patterson, RN, the medical center’s Infection Control Coordinator. “It takes only 15 seconds – using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer – to practice proper hand hygiene.”

Cole said the measures will help ensure the safety of patients, patrons and staff. “It is our obligation to help those who are least able to take care of themselves, and taking steps to keep infections away from them is another way we can do that.”

To help protect patients and visitors from the spread of germs, Sky Lakes has placed throughout the medical center “cough kiosks” that have hand sanitizer dispensers, tissues, and protective masks.

Download a “Cover Your Cough” handout. (PDF)