Northern Light AR Gould Hospital has continued to expand the availability of patient care in recent weeks with strict guidelines to keep people safe. As the hospital continues down the path to the “new normal,” limited visitors will now be allowed for hospital inpatients beginning on Thursday, June 11.

“We have been ‘reopening’ our services carefully over several weeks now,” said President Greg LaFrancois. “We are now back to offering our full array of services, although it does look different than it did in the past.”

Some of those differences include universal masking; screenings of patients and visitors, including temperature checks; physical distancing in waiting rooms; and increasing the frequency of disinfection of surfaces and equipment.

“These extra safety precautions may mean fewer appointments for a provider in a given day, which can slightly delay access in some cases,” explained Jay Reynolds, MD, the hospital’s senior physician executive. “We are busily rescheduling all of our patients whose care was delayed due to COVID over the past few months.”

The hospital is also revising its visitor policy. Starting on Thursday, June 11, all admitted patients in the hospital can once again have visitors. At this time, visitors will be limited to one a day per patient during the hours of 3:00-6:00 pm; however, the designated person can change each day. The one exception will be visitors to the Women & Children’s Unit, which for now will remain at only one designated visitor for the duration of the patient’s stay since this unit includes the hospital’s most vulnerable patients.

Other than some specific exceptions, the hospital continues to restrict visitors in the Emergency Department, Continuing Care in Mars Hill, and outpatient clinical practices. Exceptions include the parent or guardian of a minor, a person to accompany a patient with special needs, a visitor with an OB patient during ultrasounds, and a visitor with a cancer patient for a new diagnosis.

“We understand the valuable role family and friends play in a patient’s recovery and are doing all we can to safely reintroduce visitors at the hospital. We want to do this in a phased approach to ensure the safety of all involved,” said Dr. Reynolds. “We have been using technology to keep our patients and residents connected to family, and we will continue to offer that option as well.”

“Due to the vigilance of the community, the curve was flattened in our region, preventing the surge that was originally anticipated. We remain prepared to care for COVID patients if called upon to do so,” explained LaFrancois.

He points out that hospitals have always provided care while infections existed in our community. Today is no different.

“Each new change in our community causes our hospital to adjust care delivery as necessary. COVID will cause us to make permanent adjustments to our care delivery model, but access to care and the quality of that care will not be negatively impacted,” stated LaFrancois. “In fact, we are stronger for the experience.”

One of the ways the hospital has become stronger is through the use of telemedicine. Several roadblocks at the national level for this kind of service were removed during the pandemic. Patients will benefit in the future as telehealth services grow.

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