Hospitals are considered to be the hotbed for infection and they are still busy treating coronavirus infection cases. In the past few months, several scheduled and non-critical operations and surgeries were delayed or put on hold fearing the spread of the virus and this hold has put a lot of lives in jeopardy.
A lot of people, especially those dealing with chronic disorders and the ones who need timely treatment found themselves scouting for help, despite the fact that telemedicine was introduced by the authorities.
However, a lot of hospitals and medical facilities have started to welcome other surgical and non-COVID-19 patients as well. Even the doctors are reopening their clinics.
While these operations, slowly go back to being normal, it is normal to worry whether going to a hospital is a safe option or not. The number of infected cases pertaining to coronavirus is steeply rising and traveling anywhere is not completely safe.
Hence, in order to save yourself from being exposed to the coronavirus, you must take the general precautions mentioned in this article while visiting hospitals.
Coronavirus precautions that must be taken by hospitals in context to the visitors:
1. The number of visitors,
Visiting healthcare facilities must be limited in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of known community transmission. The whole family should not visit the hospital and the kids must be prohibited from visiting any patients:
- The hospital authorities must designate an entrance that visitors can use to access the hospital or the healthcare facility.
- The visitors who are noted by the healthcare facility staff to have cough, fever, or other symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as shortness of breath, must be instructed to leave the facility and seek care from a family physician or a doctor if needed.
- The facilities must encourage the visitors to be aware of the symptoms and signs of acute respiratory illness consistent with coronavirus and not enter the hospital if they have such symptoms and signs.
Visual alerts like posters and signs must be put up at hospital entrances and other strategic areas, instructing the visitors not to enter if they have a fever or any other symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
The poster or the sign must include the symptoms of coronavirus and who they are supposed to notify if any of the visitors have the mentioned symptoms.
- The visitors must be strongly discouraged from visiting the patients who are at higher risk for severe illness from coronavirus, including those patients who are senior citizens or are suffering from an underlying medical condition. If the visitors are allowed, the facilities must follow the national policies regarding the use of face covers or medical masks, for example, homemade masks, by healthy visitors.
- The hospital must apply alternatives for direct interaction between the visitors and patients, including setting up certain remote communications, such as telephone or internet connection, in isolated areas to allow for audio and video calls.
- The facility must have staff members who are able to provide education and training to the health visitors. The visitors allowed to visit patients must be educated on:
Symptoms and signs of coronavirus including the instructions on who to notify if they develop the said symptoms.
Performing proper hand hygiene by washing hands with soap or hand wash and water for at least 20 seconds or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol for at least 20 seconds. The facility must provide adequate supplies for visitors to maintain proper hand hygiene.
Following cough etiquette and respiratory hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue while sneezing or coughing, in the event, an individual develops respiratory symptoms while visiting the facility. The facility must have adequate supplies for the visitors to perform respiratory hygiene and must instruct the visitors with cough or other respiratory symptoms to immediately leave the facility and seek care from the family physician or a doctor if needed.
2. Considerations while community transmission of coronavirus:
- Thresholds must be prepared to identify when active screening of all visitors would be initiated.
- During the active screening, all healthy visitors must be assessed before entering the hospital for symptoms and signs of acute respiratory illness consistent with coronavirus. If a visitor has any of the signs or symptoms, they must not be allowed to enter the hospital facility at any cost.
- During the widespread community transmission of coronavirus, the access to healthcare facilities for visitors must be restricted. Only the healthy visitors essential for helping to provide patient care or caring for paediatric patients must be allowed. The facility must consider requiring all essential visitors to wear a face covering or a medical mask according to the national policies, to prevent transmission of the infection in the facility from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals.
3. When visiting coronavirus-positive patients is essential, such as for paediatric patients or/and for basic patient care and feeding:
- Visitors to the isolated areas must be limited to essential visitors such as those helping to provide patient care or caring for the paediatric patients. Limit to only one visitor per patient.
- The visit must be scheduled to allow enough time for education, training and screening of the visitors.
- The visitors must be assessed to identify the risks to their health. Visitors who are at higher risk for severe illness from the infection, such as senior citizens and those with underlying medical conditions, must be strongly discouraged.
- Certain movements of visitors in the hospital or healthcare facility should be restricted. Visitors must only be allowed to visit the patient they are caring for and should not go to other locations in the hospital.
- The facility must provide education and training on appropriate personal protective equipment use, how to maintain proper hand hygiene, limiting the surfaces touched, social distancing, and movement within the facility.
Training and education on PPE use must be conducted by a trained healthcare worker and must include observations of the visitor to ensure correct donning and doffing of personal protective equipment and proper hand hygiene. Appropriate disposal of PPE must be ensured by the facility staff.
Since the patients with coronavirus are on isolation precautions and the supply of PPE are limited, facilities must enforce visitor restriction policies. The equipment should not be shared among the family members of a patient with coronavirus.
- The facility must make sure that visitors understand the potential risks and hazards associated with providing care to patients with the infection, especially for the visitors at high risk for serious illness from the virus and the ones who are primary caregivers and have extended contact with the patients, for example parents or guardians of children.
- Any of the visitors should not be allowed to be present during aerosol-generating procedures or during collection of respiratory specimens.
- The facility must consider the need to conduct active screening for the visitors with potential exposure to the virus due to a breach in infection prevention and control (IPC) protocol.
COVID-19 precautions that must be taken as a visitor:
1. Avoid close contact with people you do not know and the medical staff as well. Maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and anyone who is sneezing or coughing.
2. Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth.
3. You should not visit the hospital if you are sick. Stay at home and consult your family physician for further treatment.
4. Cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue, while inside the facility, then dispose off the tissue safely.
5. Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects, surfaces and the equipment using a regular cleaning spray or a wet wipe.
6. Wearing a mask is necessary if you are taking care of an infected person. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) even recommends that the infected patients must wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus to the visitors.
7. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20, especially after returning home, before eating, and after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.
8. If a hand wash and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% of alcohol content. Always wash your hands with soap and water when they are visibly dirty.
9. If you have a fever, cough, difficulty breathing or any other symptom of coronavirus, seek medical attention from your family physician immediately.
10. Keep in mind the following travel advisory set out by the Ministry of Health and Welfare:
- Do not delay your treatment. Avoiding medical help can make matters worse most of the times.
- Avoid touching surfaces and shared utilities. Do not crowd in a hospital. If possible, limit the number of people who are required to visit the healthcare facility.
- Bring all the necessary identification documents with you so as to avoid wasting time.
- Once you are back home, remember to sanitize yourself again. Remove your shoes and disinfect with a spray and clean any surfaces and things you may have touched. If you were using a cloth mask, dispose it without touching the outer surface.