Hospitals loosen visitor restrictions

BOSTON — As health trends continue to go in the right direction for most communities in Massachusetts, hospitals are making calculated decisions to allow more people inside their buildings to support those who are being treated. A month ago, UMass Memorial began allowing one visitor per person, and recently gave visitors permission to be with loved ones who are in the emergency department.

“I think we took a very thoughtful and safe approach,” said Katie Case, Manager of Patient and Family Centered Care at UMass Memorial.

A tiered system was created to serve as a guideline for having and loosening restrictions based on COVID-19 testing and the positivity rate, among other metrics, Case explained.

Most patients are allowed one visitor at UMass Memorial, but children can have two.

Six weeks ago, Annaliese Black, who is four, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer, her mother told Boston 25 News.

Her mother, Haley has been the only relative with Annaliese on most days. Haley Black said her daughter is too ill to leave the hospital.

“I have stayed here the entire time but it was really hard not having any visitors,” Black said.

On Monday, Massachusetts General Hospital began allowing one visitor over the age of 18 per day between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. for patients who are not in Enhanced Respiratory Isolation though they are not allowed in the cafeteria, gift shop, coffee shop, or the Emergency Department, according to a revised policy chart provided by MGH.

Starting on Tuesday, Tufts Medical Center will begin allowing one person per patient. Each hospital is handling the new visitor policies differently based on their layout and what is required for social distancing, said Therese Hudson-Jinks, Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Patient Experience Officer at Tufts Medical Center.

“I would say consistently throughout health care everybody is excited to have people be together with patients,” Hudson-Jinks added.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association president said so many patients have gone nearly a year without visitors and that when nurses care for patients they care for the whole family, but there are concerns she has about adding visitors during the pandemic.

“On one hand, we’re greeting the decreased restrictions with some joy, but we are so worried that there needs to be continued vigilance, we’re worried about the variants,” said Katie Murphy, MNA president who is also a nurse at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Hospital administrators tell Boston 25 News there are still significant restrictions on visitors including the days and times they can come, the need to wear masks and social distance and to stay away from areas of the hospital that were once accessible.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center allows one patient per day between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to a notice on the hospital website.

Tuesday, Brigham and Women’s began allowing visitors 18 and older between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., but not in the emergency department or near procedure areas, according to the hospital’s website.

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