Hospitals across the country have undergone significant changes in procedures over the past several weeks to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Intermountain Healthcare, which oversees hospital facilities from southern Utah to Idaho, is no exception. Elective surgical procedures have been canceled. Makeshift tents have been set up and used as COVID-19 testing centers. Staff members have been redeployed to work in other areas of the hospital and visitor restrictions have been tightened — all to fight the pandemic.
From visiting a loved one currently staying at an Intermountain facility to checking in for an appointment, there are a few changes the public should expect.
Upon entering any Intermountain facility, patients and aspiring visitors alike are greeted by a staff member or two at a screening checkpoint. These staff members check to ensure the person entering is not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.
“Everybody who comes into our hospitals at any entrance point will go through a small screening,” said Janet Frank, a spokesperson for Utah Valley Hospital. “This will include a temperature check.”
After completing the screening, all hospital guests are required to wear a procedure mask or cloth face covering for the entirety of their stay. In addition, all guests must sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting the facility.
Potential COVID-19 patients
For those who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which may include fever, cough and shortness of breath, designated areas of the hospital are being used to facilitate COVID-19 testing. Most Intermountain facilities have tents set up in the parking lots to house such testing procedures.
“Right now (in Provo) we do have a separate tent set up where people, if they are able, are taken out to,” Frank said. “If, for some reason, they can’t go out into the tent, maybe because of a physical condition, then we have other avenues in the hospital for getting the testing done.”
The testing process for COVID-19 involves inserting a 6-inch long Q-tip-like swab into the nasal cavity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, this process “checks samples from your respiratory system … to tell if you currently have an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” The swab is then sent to a laboratory to be analyzed and results typically come back within 1–3 days.
Intermountain has stiffened its visitor policy significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. No visitors are allowed at any facility at any time unless they meet certain requirements.
In the emergency department, only patients under the age of 18 are allowed a single designated visitor throughout the entirety of their stay. Additionally, this visitor must not have symptoms of any illness, must not be suspected of having COVID-19 and must be over the age of 18.
All other patients in the emergency department over the age of 18 are not allowed any visitors during their stay.
In the labor and delivery unit, mothers going into labor are allowed only one visitor throughout their stay. According to the Intermountain website, “A surrogate child’s adopting or biological parent and doulas are considered visitors.”
Once the baby is born, if healthy, only the parents are allowed to be in the facility with their newborn.
For “end-of-life” patients who are not suspected to have COVID-19, two designated visitors are allowed to be with the patient at a time and no more than four designated visitors total are allowed during the stay.
“End-of-life” patients who are suspected to be COVID-positive are also allowed two designated visitors at a time. However, once the two visitors have been designated, no additional individuals can switch out and take over as a new designated visitor.
Patients under the age of 18 admitted to any other unit of the hospital besides the emergency department are allowed one designated visitor per every 24 hours. However, no more than two total visitors may be designated to visit the patient throughout their entire stay.
Any other patients over the age of 18 who require the assistance of another adult to stay safe are allowed one visitor for their entire stay, as long as the patient is not in the emergency department.
Such changes in procedure at Intermountain are likely to remain for the foreseeable future. However, Intermountain officials are constantly monitoring the pandemic and remain hopeful that gradually they can return to normalcy.
“Our leaders at Intermountain have been coordinating continually with the State Government and the State Health Department,” Frank said. “There are plans to open up some elective procedures in the near future. However, those will be tightly controlled. It won’t just be a mass opening with everyone coming back to get their surgery.”