Extended family, children can't meet new babies at hospital during flu-related restrictions

Hospitals restrict visitors to contain flu

INDIANAPOLIS - Effective Friday, visitor restrictions are in place at all hospitals in Marion County.

Hospital administrators say they had some confusion among visitors Friday, but overall, people seem to be understanding of the policy.

Perhaps one of the areas affected most by the visitor restrictions will be maternity wards, where lots of family and friends want to welcome newborns.

Indianapolis mom Kristin Gillespie is eight months pregnant with her second child.

When she delivers next month, she is counting on her mom and her son being at the hospital to meet the new addition, but due to this season's wide-spread flu, that might not be possible. 

This week at the request of the Marion County Health Department, area hospitals are implementing new visitor restrictions.

Community Health Network is issuing a letter to expectant mothers, like Gillespie, saying only immediate family members 18 and older can be present.

"We have a 3-year-old son. I want that moment when he comes to the hospital to see his little brother, so I'll be disappointed if he can't come," Gillespie said.

Similar restrictive measures are in place at Riley Hospital for Children.

"It really is important because influenza, the particular strain this year seems to be a little bit more serious," said Dr. Paul R. Haut, Riley's chief medical officer.

According to the health department, flu-related emergency room visits are up 69 percent this week compared to last.

Haut said visitor support for patients is important, but patient health must be the top priority.

"For every cousin and all those extended family, those are the ones that we would ask that we use other ways to communicate," Haut said. "We have Skype and FaceTime. We can help facilitate those conversations."

Riley is asking that all visitors, even immediate family, fill out a questionnaire asking questions like, "Have you had the flu or other illnesses in the last three weeks?"

They say they do realize each situation is unique, and they will work to accommodate families as best they can on a case-by-case basis.

Haut said it is hard to say how long the health department's visiting restrictions will last, but they do not expect to lift the restrictions before the end of the month at least.

Even when they start to see a reduction in flu cases, health experts will want to see those lower numbers sustained for a period of time.

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