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COVID-19 Updated Guidance for Hospital Operators Regarding Visitation

Posted on April 10, 2020

The following guidance is issued by the New York State Department of Health on April 10, 2020, and replaces all previously issued guidance regarding hospital visitation:

For patients for whom a support person has been determined to be essential to the care of the patient (medically necessary) including patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD), and patients with cognitive impairments including dementia, the Department considers one support person at a time as essential to patient care in the emergency room or during hospitalization. For these hospitalized patients, especially with prolonged hospitalizations, the patient or family/caregiver may designate two support people; but only one support person may be present at a time.

This support person can be the patient’s family, caregiver, or another person they chose. In these settings, the person will be the only support person allowed to be present during the patient’s care. This restriction must be explained to the patient and support person in plain terms, upon arrival or, ideally, prior to arriving at the hospital. Hospital staff should ensure that patients fully understand this restriction, allowing them to decide who they wish to identify as their support person. Individuals age 70 years or older, are not encouraged to be support persons at this time due to increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

Effective immediately, hospitals must suspend all visitation except for patient support persons, or family members and/or legal representatives of patients in imminent end-of-life situations.

 Hospitals are required to permit a patient support person at the patient bedside for:

  • Patients in labor and delivery;
  • Pediatric patients;
  • Patients for whom a support person has been determined to be essential to the care of the patient (medically necessary) including patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and patients with cognitive impairments  including dementia.

During this unprecedented time, a support person for the patients described above may  be critical to avoid negative health outcomes unrelated to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Given the risk of COVID-19 in healthcare settings, healthcare providers should thoroughly discuss the potential risks and benefits of a support person’s presence at the bedside with both the patient (if 18 years of age or older) and the support person. For those patients and support persons who through informed decision making determine a support person at the bedside is essential for the patient’s care, hospitals  should develop protocols for ensuring a  support person at bedside minimizes risk of potential COVID-19  transmission,  including  when  the patient is confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19.

Read the details in the official memo.