Contact: Collette DuValle, 317-373-2391

Indianapolis-Area Hospitals Modify Visitation Policies In Response to Flu Season

All Marion County hospitals have adopted a plan to limit visitors who might infect hospital patients or staff with communicable diseases like the H1N1 flu. The announcement was made October 13 after Marion County members of the Indiana Coalition for Patient Safety completed the policy.

"The Marion County coalition members have been meeting for the last several months to develop a policy on visitor restriction that emphasizes a unified approach to protecting hospitalized patients and hospital staff," said Glen J. Bingle, MD, PhD and Chairman of the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety.

The policy, reviewed and supported by the Marion County Health Department's Scientific Advisory Group, exemplifies the coordinated approach local healthcare providers are implementing to protect the best health interests of the community.

"This consensus policy is a collaborative response on the part of local healthcare and public health leadership to the rapidly evolving needs of our community," said Charles Miramonti, MD, Deputy Medical Director of Wishard Emergency Medical Services and Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Indiana University.

Health officials agree that even with the standard of excellent care and the rigorous preparation exemplified by public and private healthcare providers, a key to success remains the public's cooperation.

"At St. Vincent, our goal is to ensure the health and safety of our patients, associates and visitors at our facilities. We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with other area hospitals in achieving this goal. By temporarily restricting visitors during a public health emergency, we can help to limit risk and continue to provide the appropriate level of care to our patients," said Robert M. Lubitz, MD, MPH, FACP, and Vice President, Academic Affairs and Research; Medical Director, Joshua Max Simon Primary Care Center and Executive Sponsor, Emergency Preparedness at St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospitals.

Local health officials agree that while the restrictions may create some inconveniences, protecting patients who have a weakened immune system or at a higher risk for infection such as pregnant women and newborn infants, is a critical step in controlling the spread of flu this season.

"Since this specific influenza virus is preferentially affecting children, adolescents and young adults, we have deemed it necessary to initiate a visitation restriction policy. Only parents, spouses, domestic partners and spiritual counselors will be allowed to visit. The cooperation of everyone during this pandemic will help prevent the spread of this serious and potentially deadly virus," said John C. Christenson, MD, Director of the Ryan White Center for Pediatric Infectious Disease, Riley Hospital for Children, and professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine.

The hospital visitation policy is one example of changes that the general public is likely to see during the flu season.

"We know our community will respond, as they have to other health issues. These steps are being taken to protect those vulnerable to infectious disease and to lower the risk of spreading communicable diseases like the flu," said Virginia A. Caine, MD, Director, Marion County Health Department.

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