SMITH CENTER, Kan. – Smith Center Memorial Hospital reopened to visitors at the end of June but there are still several changes that will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Patients are allowed to have one visitor at a time. Each visitor should check in with the receptionist or a registration clerk when arriving. When they do, they should expect to answer a few health screening questions and be asked to wait to be escorted to the inpatient area.
“This process helps us in several ways,” said Sarah Ragsdale, chief nursing officer at the hospital. “First, we can make sure the guest is healthy and safe to visit patients. If a patient is with a provider, in the shower, has another guest or is otherwise occupied, we’ll ask visitors to wait in the lobby before taking them back to see their loved one.”
According to Ragsdale screening visitors is still an important part of the reopening plan at the hospital. For this reason, guests may want to stagger their visits so that large groups are not waiting in the lobby. Ragsdale also encourages calling before coming to visit and asking a member of the nursing staff to explain the daily routine for a patient to better schedule time with loved ones.
“We want patients to see their loved ones and we know visitors help with the recovery process, however, we must also think of the impact on the overall health of our patients and staff,” Ragsdale said. “This is why it is extremely important to follow the protocol of talking with a receptionist or registration clerk before entering the patient area.”
Ragsdale and the other nursing staff at SCMH would also appreciate visitors checking in at the nurses’ station before walking back to a patient’s room. Some patients may require additional precautions or may not be allowed visitors based on their specific situation.
Visitor restrictions are even tighter on the most vulnerable patients. Patients who are in isolation or need special precautions to be kept safe will likely not be able to see loved ones in person.
“We’re happy to set up a Zoom call or other video chat service to connect patients with loved ones,” Ragsdale said. “The hospital purchased several tablets for patients to use in these cases and we’ve found success from virtual visits.”
While Smith County has not seen the increases in COVID-19 cases that area counties have had, the disease is too close to be lax on visitor policies. Some hospitals in the area have either not reopened to visitors or have gone back to restrictions put in place in the spring. Exceptions to the visitor limitations are made for patients who are actively dying.
“We know from talking with other facilities in the area that things can change rapidly,” Ragsdale said. “We appreciate everyone following our protocols and supporting the work of our staff to keep the community safe and healthy.