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Visitors to D-HH Facilities

Our visitor policy is intended to assure the safety of our patients and the health care workers caring for them. The policy will evolve to become more, or less, restrictive based on the most up-to-date information. Updates will be made with an eye toward limiting the spread of COVID-19, flattening the curve, and assuring a healthy workforce who can care for current and future patients.

Use of face masks

All visitors and patients to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health patient care facilities will be required to be masked.

Patients

  • Patients will be allowed to wear a cloth mask of their own or will be provided a cloth mask from in-stock community donations when they enter a D-HH facility.
  • At the end of their visit, they can choose to keep the provided cloth mask or recycle it at an exit location for future cleaning and reuse.
  • Any patients exhibiting symptoms who are seeking care will be provided a medical face mask for their clinical visit.

Visitors

  • Permitted visitors will be allowed to wear a cloth mask of their own or will be provided a cloth mask from in-stock community donations at an entry location.
  • At the end of their visit, they can choose to keep the provided cloth mask or recycle it at an exit location for future cleaning and reuse.

It is important to remember that maintaining a 6-foot distance between individuals remains a critical factor in reducing the spread of COVID-19. It is equally important to know that cloth masks are only meant to reduce the spread of virus from someone who is infected.

Cloth masks are not as effective and should NOT be worn as PPE when caring for a patient with suspect or confirmed COVID-19.

Visitor screening

As part of our effort to keep patients and staff healthy, all visitors (employees and patients) will be screened at entrances to D-HH facilities for symptoms of COVID-19. Screening is intended for the wellness of our patients and employees. 

Entrances at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Please note that at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, entrances to those permitted access to our facilities will be limited to the following entrances and times:

  • Main Entrance (Monday - Sunday, 5:00 am - 6:00 pm)
  • East Entrance, Norris Cotton Cancer Center (Monday - Friday, 5:00 am - 6:00 pm)
  • Level 4 from the Parking Garage (Monday - Sunday, 24 hours)
  • North Entrance (Monday - Sunday, 24 hours)
  • Emergency Department Entrance (Monday-Sunday, 24 hours)

You can find entrances here.

Virtual visits for hospitalized patients

Telephone and video visits are strongly encouraged for all patients during this time. Please reference our Virtual Visits with Friends and Family in the Hospital (PDF) to connect with loved ones using a personal device. For adult patients that may not have a device or need help connecting through their device, our virtual visit coordinators can help. Pediatric patients also receive help from our staff to stay connected with their family.

Visitor guidelines

The following guidelines apply to patients who are seen in any Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System (D-HH) member hospital or outpatient care area.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health’s highest priority is the health and safety of our patients and staff.  Our visitor guidelines continually evolve to protect our patients, caregivers, and employees while balancing the importance of being with friends and family. These guidelines will be reassessed and adjusted based upon the most up-to-date information and recommended best practices for limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Social distancing

To protect all of us, we will design each visit to fit the particular patient situation. Our patients have a variety of medical conditions and spaces are adaptable to those needs. To maintain the highest level of safety, we will keep in place principles and expectations of social distancing (mask wearing, handwashing, and other measures). Specific rules which apply to each location and/or clinical needs are available.

Definition of caregiver vs. visitor

Effective May 20, 2020: we are permitting selective access to D-HH facilities for necessary caregivers.

“Caregiver”refers to family members, friends or other support person whose presence is required for physical or cognitive support associated with the patient's health care.

“Visitors” refer to those who wish to access a D-HH facility, but are not directly involved in the care of a patient as outlined above. Visitors may wish to

  • socialize with an inpatient
  • visit a gift shop, cafeteria, food court, or bank
  • socialize or exercise on the facility campus

Visitors, as described here, are not permitted on D-HH premises while these visitor guidelines remain in place.

Important Note Regarding Exception for Patients with Disabilities

Patients with disabilities such as significant physical disabilities or intellectual or cognitive disabilities may require the presence of a family member, personal care assistant, or similar disability service provider knowledgeable about the management of the patient’s care and/or able to assist during the patient’s hospitalization. This will be permitted, and limited to one designated support person, unless otherwise authorized. The designated support person must comply with the requirements outlined below for all caregivers, all of which are aimed at containing spread of COVID-19.

Guidelines

Individual departments, sections, or units may have additional limitations or requirements beyond these guidelines. These additional guidelines are based on the need to maintain patient or staff health and safety. Patients and caregivers should contact the specific department or unit if there are questions.

  • Patients able to receive care in the inpatient and outpatient environments without the presence of a caregiver (family member or other support person) must do so. We support and encourage the use of electronic devices and virtual tools to include caregivers and loved ones at visits and in care discussions, planning, and decision making during hospital stays.
  • For both outpatient and inpatient settings, permitted caregivers must be without any COVID-19 symptoms and successfully pass our symptom screening before entering a building. Any caregiver who has the symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted in the building.
  • Caregivers can expect to be screened every time they enter a D-HH building and they will be required to wear a personal or D-HH issued cloth mask (adequately covering the nose and mouth) while inside the D-HH facility.
  • Individuals under age 14 may not visit inpatients. If they must accompany a patient and/or caregiver for an outpatient appointment, they must wear a personal or D-HH issued cloth mask, and they must remain with the patient/caregiver at all times.

Emergency Department

The Emergency Department staff will decide based on clinical judgment when it is appropriate for a caregiver to be with a patient. A space and other conditions permit, pediatric patients in the Emergency Department may have up to two, adult primary caregivers (parent or guardian) present.

Outpatient appointments

Adult patients who do not require a caregiver should attend their appointments alone. Adult patients who require  a caregiver for physical or cognitive support , may have one person accompany them to an outpatient appointment. If the patient believes more than one person is necessary, special arrangements with the clinic leadership must be made in advance. Certain outpatient settings may have additional constraints or requirements beyond these guidelines. Patients and caregivers should contact the specific department or unit if there are questions.

Outpatient procedures

All adult outpatients having a procedure may have one caregiver, required for physical or cognitive support, present. Caregivers may leave the building and they will be given information about when they need to return. For procedures requiring a driver post-procedure, the driver and caregiver will be the same individual.Caregivers will be screened at entrance doors each time they enter.

Adult inpatients

Patients who are not COVID-19 positive and able to receive care in the inpatient environments without the presence of a caregiver to provide physical or cognitive support must do so. If a patient requires a caregiver, one caregiver is permitted. The caregiver should be the same person, to the greatest extent possible. Inpatient nursing staff will work with the patient and family to asses the need for a caregiver. Certain inpatient units may have additional constraints or requirements beyond these guidelines. Patients and caregivers should contact the specific department or unity if there are questions.

Inpatients who are COVID-19 positive or under investigation for COVID-19 

No caregivers will be permitted, except with respect to patients receiving end of life care. Virtual visits are encouraged, and we are happy to assist with them. Exceptions for COVID-positive patients who are receiving End of Life care may be granted to allow limited visitation with approval from the care team. These exceptions are subject to additional D-HH requirements as applicable.

Obstetrics (OB) – labor, delivery and post-partum care

One caregiver or partner may be present through labor, delivery and post-partum care. Birthing Pavilion staff will review unit-specific guidelines for caregivers or partners. We are happy to assist with virtual visits and highly encourage them as a way to involve other family members and friends.OB/GYN visits in other outpatient clinical settings may have additional constraints or requirements based on local policies and space limitations. Patients and caregivers should contact the specific department or unit if there are questions.

Pediatrics – outpatient appointments and procedures, and inpatient care (including COVID-positive patients)

As space and other conditions permit, pediatric (including neonatal) patients may have up to two adult primary caregivers (parents or legal guardians only, space permitting) with them. During hospitalization, the two designated caregivers should be the same two people to the greatest extent possible. The designated caregivers for hospitalized pediatric patients with possible or diagnosed COVID-19 should remain with the patient in the patient’s room during the patient’s stay.

Inpatients receiving End of Life care

End of Life care includes Comfort Measures Only (CMO), At Risk of Imminent Death, or at Jack Byrne Center for Palliative & Hospice Care.

Assuming the patient is not COVID-19 positive or under investigation for COVID-19, two family members/friends may visit at a time. As with any caregivers, these visitors must wear a personal or D-HH issued cloth mask at all times while in the facility. For a patient who is to be discharged home with hospice care, visits should be postponed or planned to the home setting whenever possible.

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