Valley Health limits visiting hours due to flu

Valley Health is temporarily altering visiting policies at its six hospitals due to an increase in influenza and influenza-like illnesses in emergency departments, urgent care centers and physician offices in the region.

Nicolas Restrepo, vice president for medical affairs at Winchester Medical Center, said the altered visiting hours began Monday.

Visiting hours are limited to four hours a day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Winchester Medical Center, Winchester Rehabilitation Center, Warren Memorial Hospital, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, Page Memorial Hospital, Hampshire Memorial Hospital and War Memorial Hospital.

Restrepo said this is not the first time Valley Health has altered visiting hours. Last year hours did not change during flu season, but it did two years prior.

He said no visitors under the age of 18 and no visitors with flu-like symptoms will be permitted to visit. All visitors who have not received a flu vaccine will be required to wear a mask when within 4 feet of a patient. Patients will be limited to two visitors at a time.

Restrepo added that there are exceptions to these rules. Parents of a newborn or a pediatric patient, siblings of newborns, banded support individuals and grandparents may visit family in the hospitals. Other exceptions include patient visitation immediately after surgery, at end of life and other situations determined by nursing leadership on a case by case basis.

He said there is no time limit to how long the hours will remain in place.

“Dependent on how long the flu season goes we’ll keep these in place until it is safe for the general public to visit with less restrictions,” he added. “We are trying to meet the needs of the patients as best we can, yet maintain a safety process for the patients and the staff.”

He added that prevention of the flu is the best way to limit the spread of the illness.

“It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine and that’s helpful,” he said, “and the most important thing is to work toward preventing it through good hand hygiene.”

According to a Valley Health news release, influenza is a contagious respiratory infection that causes mild to severe illness, and sometimes death, among older people, young children and those with certain health conditions.

The release states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea, to stay home and avoid contact with others except to get medical care.

“Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs,” the release added.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com