Hospitals Change Procedures, Responding To COVID-19

(Photo by Kimberly Bosco)

  NEW JERSEY – Schools closed, libraries closed, public buildings mostly closed, and the term “social distancing” becoming part of our vocabulary, conditions are changing nearly by the minute concerning what to do when it comes to things related to COVID-19.

  With various protocols, guidelines, curfews and closures now a way of life, hospitals, nursing homes and medical facilities have implemented new visitation guidelines at their facilities among various other policies to deal with the spread of the virus.

  Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health (RWJBarnabas Health) issued guidelines which the safety and well-being of its patients, visitors and staff is a big priority.

  Administrators at RWJBarnabas Health are asking the public to be aware of the newly revised guidelines before visiting one of their hospitals or healthcare facilities.

  Until further notice, no visitors will be allowed in to any RWJBarnabas Health hospital and healthcare facility, including Behavioral Health and Outpatient facilities. For a full list of RWJBH hospitals and facilities visit

  The only exceptions are at their pediatric units where only one parent/guardian will be permitted, maternity and labor and delivery units where only one significant other/support person can visit and Neonatal Intensive Care Units where two parents/support persons can visit.

  Exceptions also include same day surgery or ambulatory procedures where only one person can visit.

  Pediatric psychiatric patients can receive only one visitor if/when a mutual agreement between the care team and the parents/guardian has been reached.

  The new guidelines do take into account extenuating circumstances, such as hospice, will also be considered based on the best interest and needs of the individual patient.

  Emergency Department patients may be accompanied by one adult while outpatients may be accompanied by one adult, unless an aide or assistant is required.

 Approved visitors will be screened for the following and may not be allowed to visit or stay based their recent international travel history, recent domestic travel to areas with widespread COVID-19 infection, contact with individuals with known COVID-19, cold or flu-like symptoms.

  In addition, all visitors should wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after visiting and individuals 18 years of age and under will not be permitted.

  According to a statement from RWJBarnabas Health “while we are sensitive to the difficulties facing loved ones of hospitalized patients, our healthcare providers must keep patient and staff safety paramount at this unprecedented time. We encourage family members and friends to use alternative ways to interact with their loved ones, including phone calls, Facetime, Skype and other means.”

  For the most up-to-date instructions and restrictions for visitation at an RWJBarnabas Health facility visit

  Representatives at Hackensack Meridian Health Southern Ocean Medical Center, Stafford also commented on the ongoing pandemic.

  Chief Physician Executive Dr. Daniel W. Varga said, “the health and safety of our patients, families and team members remains Hackensack Meridian Health’s top priority.”

 “We have been developing coronavirus preparedness plans across our network for weeks and are executing on that plan to help create capacity and continue delivering high-quality care in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 cases,” Varga added.

  The doctor added, “we have also created the Hackensack Meridian Health command center to centralize communications across our 17 hospitals, ensuring we can effectively communicate to all of our team members and physicians in a timely and efficient manner about the latest developments regarding testing, best practices and guidelines.”

 In addition, the medical facility has been working with a variety of vendors to ensure “we maintain a steady flow of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep our team members safe,” Varga said.

  Hackensack Meridian Health has implemented the following measures to help with capacity and keep patients, families and team members safe during this time:

  • In compliance with the U.S. Surgeon General and the American College of Surgeons, as of March 17, Hackensack Meridian Health has postponed non-urgent and non-emergency hospital/campus-based surgeries and procedures for two weeks. This temporary measure will allow our hospitals to enact preparedness plans and create additional capacity.
  • As of March 13, Hackensack Meridian Health restricted visitation across all our hospitals, as well as nursing and rehabilitation facilities, out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our patients and families.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80 percent of cases are mild and do not require treatment in a hospital. That is why we are utilizing telemedicine via our ConvenientCare Now app, so patients can seek care from the comfort of their own home while reducing the risk of further exposure.

  “Along with the CDC, we recommend patients at risk for COVID-19 who are either not showing symptoms or have mild symptoms be evaluated virtually before visiting urgent care, a doctor’s office or emergency department,” Varga added. “We encourage patients to go to an Emergency Department only when symptoms have progressed to shortness of breath or respiratory distress, or if patients over 60 with underlying health conditions are experiencing a fever and/or shortness of breath.”

  Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) created a test to dramatically reduce the time it takes for diagnosing COVID-19. “Our experts are preparing to expand testing dramatically in the next week. Currently, we are only testing patients who are severely ill and already in isolation and treatment.”

  Lori Palmer, the director of public relations and communications at CentraState Healthcare System said, “CentraState Medical Center recognizes the seriousness of COVID-19 as it impacts our patients, employees and our community. Our team continues to work diligently to ensure that we are following CDC guidance in caring for patients, providing appropriate protective equipment to our staff, and sourcing supplies as needed. We are closely monitoring our capacity in regard to the availability of beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment, medications and all supplies needed to protect and treat.”

  “For the safety of our patients, visitors and team members, CentraState has instituted a strict no-visitor policy at the following locations:

  • CentraState Medical Center
  • The Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center, with the exception of those receiving end of life care
  • Monmouth Crossing, with the exception of those receiving end of life care
  • Applewood Independent Living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Care.

  She added that maternity and pediatric patients will be allowed one support person. “We have created a COVID-19 community information line for the public to call at 732-637-6556, Monday thru Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for questions or concerns.