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Hospitals relax visitation policy

Area hospitals have returned to their normal visitation policies for children after six months of restricting visitors under the age of 18.

Eighteen area hospitals collectively restricted minors from visiting hospital patients beginning in October 2009. Studies of the 2009 H1N1 flu showed children to be more likely carriers, and the hospitals decided to bar children from visiting patients in the interest of public safety.

However, levels of flu now are down in Virginia, so the hospitals have rescinded the policy.

“It’s a careful balance between public health and safety and patient convenience,” Zultanky said. “Because the level of H1N1 has dropped, we don’t feel that the balance of the inconvenience to our patients is now providing us that benefit.”

Zultanky cautioned that the removal of the policy does not mean H1N1 is gone, or that people should stop taking precautions against flu. The policy also could be reinstated if levels rise again, she said.

“This doesn’t mean that H1N1 is not in our community,” Zultanky said. “It just means we are not at the high levels we were before. If appropriate, we will go back to our restricted visitations.”

She encouraged people to continue washing their hands, and avoid visiting hospitals if they are sick.

“We will be discouraging visitors who are obviously sick from coming in,” Zultanky said.