OHSU Changes Visitation Policy in Response to H1N1 Concerns

10/06/09  Portland, Ore.

Interim policy also calls for screening visitors for illness

Oregon Health & Science University has enacted an interim policy to limit visitors younger than 12 to many of its inpatient units and to begin screening all visitors for the presence of an influenza-like illness.

Beginning Friday, Oct. 2, OHSU began informing patients and their families that children younger than 12 would not be allowed in the following areas:

  • OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital inpatient units
  • OHSU Doernbecher Neonatal Care Center
  • Women's Health Units, including Labor and Delivery and the Mother Baby Unit
  • Adult Oncology
  • Adult Bone Marrow Transplant
  • Adult Solid Organ Transplant

"School-aged children are known to be contagious with the flu for longer periods of time and aren't always able to tell others when they have developing respiratory symptoms," said Judy Guzman-Cottrill, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital and co-director of the OHSU Infection Control Program. "Younger children also aren't as capable of following good respiratory etiquette by fully covering their coughs and sneezes and thoroughly washing their hands."

OHSU also began screening visitors to all inpatient units by asking whether they have had a fever in the past 48 hours or whether they have a cough or sore throat. Visitors answering yes to either of these questions will be asked to stay home until they have been without symptoms for at least 24 hours. Symptom-free visitors will be asked to wear a sticker for the duration of their visit to OHSU.

"Limiting visitors was a difficult decision," said Brett Sheppard, M.D., OHSU interim chief medical officer. "We recognize the hardships this may cause some patients, but we hope people understand it was done to protect our patients, visitors and the staff who care for them. Because the vaccine is not readily available, limiting visitors was determined to be an effective method of trying to restrict the spread of this virus."