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With Influx of Flu Cases in the Region, Baystate Health Changes Visitors Policy

February 08, 2017

In order to protect its patients from the influx of flu virus currently circulating in the region, Baystate Health has adopted changes to its Visitors Policy across the health system to provide the safest environment possible for patients, visitors and staff during the flu season.

Number of reported “flu” cases ranks highest since 2014

According to Baystate Reference Labs, the number of confirmed “flu” cases is the highest it has been since 2014.

Baystate did not implement flu restrictions the past two years, although our inpatient oncology unit routinely operates with higher visiting restrictions due to the unique needs and concerns of oncology patients.

The following graph is the method by which Baystate Reference Labs tracks the prevalence of flu in the community, and is reflective of any positive test at one of Baystate’s lab facilities across the region:

flu chart

Effective immediately:

  • Visitors who have been exposed to the flu at home, or who have symptoms of flu, are asked to refrain from visiting patients in Baystate hospitals.
  • No more than two visitors at a time are recommended per patient.
  • Visitors should be essential for the wellbeing of patients.
  • No visitors under 14 years old will be permitted in Baystate hospitals.

Additionally, to help reduce exposure to flu in the waiting rooms of our doctors’ offices and other outpatient settings:

  • Patients should come to appointments alone or be accompanied by no more than one other person, if needed.
  • Patients are discouraged from bringing children with them to their appointments, as children are more likely to transmit the flu to others.

Visitors to Baystate facilities are asked to comply with these new guidelines to help keep already-vulnerable hospital patients safe from flu-related illness, and to help staff stay healthy to meet the community’s healthcare needs. Since the onset of flu season, Baystate Health has been asking visitors who are sick to consider returning home and calling the patient instead, or connecting with the patient via email or social media.

Beyond the guidelines, Baystate Health offers the following additional tips to make the public’s visits to the hospital as safe as possible for them and their loved ones:

  • Always wash your hands upon entering and leaving the patient’s room.
  • Assess your own health before visiting the hospital; do not visit if you are at higher risk to contract infections.
  • If the patient you are visiting has a contagious disease, consider calling instead.
  • If you decide to visit a patient with a contagious illness, wear the protective items offered by the medical staff.
  • Flu shots are still widely available and effective. They are your best protection against flu.

Baystate Health will continue to review the flu situation, and these restrictions will be lifted once the increased prevalence of flu has passed.