The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has issued updated guidance on hospital emergency department and inpatient visitation. DOH notes, “Effective immediately, hospitals must suspend all visitation except for patient support persons, or family members and/or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations.”

Hospitals are required to permit a patient support person at the patient bedside for:

  • Patients in labor and delivery
  • Pediatric patients
  • Patients for whom a support person has been determined to be essential to the care of the patient (medically necessary) including patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and patients with cognitive impairments, including dementia
  • Patients in imminent end-of-life situations may be permitted one family member and/or legal representative at a time, as a support person at the bedside. DOH defines imminent end-of-life situations as a patient who is actively dying, where death is anticipated within less than 24 hours.

Recommendations for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

DOH outlines the PPE necessary for the support persons of a patient when:

  • Patient is confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and support person has been a close contact of the patient
  • Patient is confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and support person has not been a close contact of the patient and does not have a history of confirmed COVID-19
  • Patient does not have confirmed or suspected COVID-19

When providing PPE to a support person, instructions on PPE conservation strategies should be provided to minimize unnecessary waste (e.g., prolonged wearing).

Screening of Visitors

Hospitals must screen the support person for symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, or diarrhea) and conduct a temperature check prior to entering the clinical area and every 12 hours thereafter for the remainder of their presence at the bedside. A support person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 or who presents with or develops symptoms of COVID-19 should be excluded from the facility.

Patients without Support Person at Bedside

Hospitals must develop clear protocols for communicating with family members or caregivers of any patient who does not have a support person at the bedside. This should include assisting patient and family member communication through remote methods when possible (e. g., via phone or video call).

Signage

Hospitals must post signage notifying the public of the suspension of visitation in all hospital entrances and in parking lots. These policies should also be posted to the hospital’s website and social media page.