Effective Tuesday, March 24, Baptist Health is suspending visitation at all of its hospitals, including Baptist Health Richmond, and allowing only essential caregivers to accompany patients for medical appointments or tests. There will be limited exceptions.

For the past two weeks, Baptist Health has been progressively restricting access to its hospitals and Baptist Health Medical Group offices to protect patients from the COVID-19 virus.

“This is a difficult but necessary step to help deal with this ever-changing situation,” said Baptist Health CEO Gerard Colman, in a release. “We apologize for the inconvenience to our patients and their loved ones, but we must keep patient and staff safety our top priority. With Baptist Health’s long-standing reputation of providing ‘treat-you-like-family’ care, you know your family members and friends are in good hands.”

At the hospitals, there will be limited exceptions, allowing one healthy visitor or companion for: patients under age 18 (must be a parent or guardian); women in labor (birthing partner); end-of-life patients (clergy); hospice or end-of-life patients (visitor); and dependent patients who require assistance (caregiver).

According to a release, those allowed to visit or accompany a patient will be screened prior to visitation, which may include having a temperature taken. Only one visitor or companion for a patient may be in the hospital at one time.

“We encourage everyone to use their personal electronic devices to use virtual means such as FaceTime or Skype to communicate with their loved ones in the hospital,” said Greg D. Gerard, president of Baptist Health Richmond, in the release.

For Baptist Health Medical Group offices and outpatient facilities, a single essential caregiver will be allowed for: child under age 18 (parent); dependent adult who requires assistance (caregiver); and end-of-life patient (determined on case-by-case basis).

Other recent measures taken by Baptist Health include postponement of elective surgeries and of certain diagnostic screening tests.

Elective radiology screening exams postponed

For at least the next month, Baptist Health Richmond suspended elective screening exams beginning on Monday, March 23. Urgent and emergency diagnostic exams will still be performed.

The announcement comes on the heels of the eight-hospital system’s postponement of elective surgeries for 30 days, according to a second Baptist Health release. Both measures are designed to meet the rising demand for COVID-19 care and to conserve hospital resources.

Outpatient diagnostic radiology exams to be rescheduled include routine mammograms, low dose CT of the lung and abdominal aortic aneurysm. Other exams to be postponed — unless deemed medically necessary by the patient’s physician — include DEXA scan for osteoporosis, and multiple other ultrasound, MRI, and CT studies that are classified as routine follow-ups.

Elective procedures are defined as those that are necessary, but can be delayed for 30 days without significant risk or harm to the patient.

Patients affected by this change will be contacted, and given further guidance.

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