Hospitals take precautions with increase in flu-like illnesses

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -  Swine flu concerns have some hospitals around the country tightening visitation restrictions. Hospitals in the Richmond area are monitoring the situation daily.

Don't be surprised if you're handed a mask at some local hospitals, if there's any indication you might have the flu.

While visitation rules are constantly being evaluated locally, one hospital group is restricting access to some of the most vulnerable of patients.

"People of all ages are coming in with questions or wondering what they have could be the flu," said HCA Hospitals spokesperson, J.C. Sadler.

With more people with flu-like symptoms turning to local emergency rooms for treatment, HCA  hospitals have prepared for the worst. That includes a change in visitation rules at HCA's Chippenham, Johnston Willis and John Randolph medical centers.

"All we're restricting is access to our neonatal intensive care unit of course our youngest our newborn infants," said Sadler.

At this point, there are no restrictions at Bon Secours hospitals or VCU Medical Center. But the rules are being evaluated daily.

VCU Medical Center officials are asking people with flu-like symptoms to stay out of the emergency room unless they have trouble breathing or chest pains to avoid the spread of the flu.

Should there be a surge in patients, HCA hospitals have practiced triage drills. Emergency tents would be set up close to the ER's to handle the overflow. Sadler says it's important people be mindful of hospital precautions and procedures.

"In order to protect all our patients we are asking that anyone who comes in immediately if we thought they had flu like symptoms we offer a mask and give masks to anyone with them," said Sadler.

HCA hospitals have also increased the number of hand hygiene stations in each hospital.

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