VENICE — Visitors can brighten a hospital patient’s stay, bringing good cheer, reading material and maybe even some treats.
But in the midst of a global pandemic whose impact on the area is still emerging, visitation could do more harm than good.
So, to reduce exposure to the coronavirus, the county’s four hospitals are telling almost all potential visitors to stay away.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital was the last to take the step, announcing Friday morning that visitation would cease as of 6 p.m. that day, with a few exceptions that weren’t specified in the press statement.
Venice Regional Bayfront Health had announced Thursday afternoon that it was suspending visitation as of 6 a.m. Friday, with a few exceptions.
“We will continue to welcome those serving as interpreters, acting as health care power of attorney for patients or for a patient facing an end-of-life prognosis,” Marketing Manager Julie Beatty said.
The emergency department will remain open 24 hours a day, she added, and the hospital is screening all patients for COVID-19 risk factors.
Technology will still allow visitation of a sort, she said.
“The hospital has free Wi-Fi, so we encourage friends and family to connect with their loved one using Facetime or another video communication app,” she said.
Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and Englewood Community Hospital had also already banned visits to inpatients.
The two HCA West Florida hospitals can make exceptions for end-of-life patients and patients in labor and delivery, post-partum and neonatal intensive care units, but only for one visitor, who may stay overnight.
One visitor may accompany someone to the emergency room or for outpatient surgery but will have to leave if the person is admitted.
No visitors under 18 will be admitted except the parents of a hospitalized child. All visitors will be questioned about their health and potential exposure to the virus.
The first confirmed Florida case of the coronavirus was in a patient at Doctors Hospital who has since been released.