Hilo hospital to ease visitor restrictions

  • Photos by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Nurse aide Caitlin Albrecht, left, screens Anne Clark before she enters Hilo Medical Center on Thursday. The hospital will loosen its no-visitor policy beginning Monday.

Nearly two months after implementing a no-visitor policy in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hilo Medical Center will begin loosening those restrictions this week.

Starting today, HMC will allow one visitor per admitted patient, per day, from 3-7 p.m., according to spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

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Additionally, one visitor will be allowed to accompany patients into the emergency department, she said, but if the patient is admitted, the visitor will be asked to return the following day during regular visiting hours.

“We do understand the importance of allowing their visitor, but it’s going to take a coordination amongst family and friends to work out the scheduling for the visits,” Cabatu said.

It won’t be business as usual like before the pandemic, where visitors could go other places in the hospital, she said, but rather a “structured visit.”

Visitors will receive a band to indicate the floor on which the patient is staying. According to Cabatu, HMC wants visitors to go directly to and stay in the room of the patient they are visiting.

“We’re taking this approach because we want to limit the exposure (to) our patients.”

Everyone entering the hospital will continue to be screened, and should bring a mask to be worn throughout their visit.

Cabatu said the changes to the visitation policy fall in line with the hospital’s efforts to assure the community of its safety.

The low prevalence rate of COVID-19 in East Hawaii was a contributing factor to loosening visitation restrictions, Cabatu said.

HMC, which is testing patients who are admitted and prior to having procedures done, also will begin testing all employees for the disease today, said Cabatu, “so we will know with a pretty high degree of certainty the prevalence of COVID in our hospital.”

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The change in the visitation rules is specific to HMC. Cabatu said hospital facilities in Ka‘u and Honokaa, also a part of the East Hawaii Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., and HMC’s Extended Care Facility, remain under no-visitor policies.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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