SMH: No plan to ban young visitors

Published 8:36 am Friday, October 16, 2009

FRANKLIN—As H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, continues to spread in the region, hospitals in Hampton Roads are preparing to enact a ban on visitors under the age of 18. However, Southampton Memorial Hospital has no plans to follow suit.

“Any action to restrict visitors is not being considered at this time,” said Anne Williams, the director of marketing at Southampton Memorial. “The safety and infection control precautions instituted are adequate to protect the population we serve at this time.”

Starting Thursday, visitors under the age of 18 will be banned at 18 Hampton Roads-area hospitals, including Sentara Obici Hospital in Suffolk, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

“Our goal as health care providers is to use every available and appropriate measure to protect our patients from exposure to outside infections,” according to a statement from Sentara, which is prohibiting children visitors at all eight of its Hampton Roads hospitals.

The ban does not include patients, and limited exceptions can be made for expectant or new fathers under the age of 18 and young family members of dying patients. The ban does include siblings of newborns.

The ban reflects the nature of the H1N1 flu, which is much more prevalent in children and adolescents.

According to a statement from Sentara, the visiting policy change “will remain in effect during the flu season and while prevalence of flu in the region is extraordinarily high.”

While there are currently no changes to the hospital’s visitation policy, Southampton Memorial officials aren’t ruling out changes in the future.

“Developments are monitored daily and should changes occur that require modification of our process, we will adjust visitation accordingly,” Williams said.