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Visiting someone in a Massachusetts hospital? Many are imposing new limits

Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, or the Bedford VA Hospital in Bedford, is pictured on April 14, 2020. (Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, or the Bedford VA Hospital in Bedford, is pictured on April 14, 2020. (Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Many Massachusetts hospitals are restricting visitation as the omicron variant surges. Some are allowing two visitors at a time, others just one. A few, including the VA hospitals in Boston and Marlborough Hospital, are not allowing any visitors for the time being.

The VA Boston’s chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Charness says the change is necessary as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise.

“We appreciate how important visitation is to healing, especially at this time of year, and we will facilitate virtual visitation using iPads and cell phones,” said Charness in a statement. “We’re grateful for everyone’s understanding and cooperation with this effort to protect our patients and coworkers.”

Most hospitals relax visitor limits for patients nearing the end of their lives. A last visit is the only reason some hospitals allow family and friends to see a patient who has COVID. In many facilities, patients who’ve tested positive can only connect with loved ones over the phone or using a tablet.

Hospitals tend to be more lenient with children. At UMass Memorial Medical Center, for example, adults can only have one visitor a day but children can have two. Policies vary for childbirth with some hospitals allowing only one family member or friend in the labor and delivery room and others allowing a doula as well.

Some hospitals, including Tufts Medical Center, give nurses or other staff members the authority to tighten visitation rules if they have safety concerns.

Visitation policies are changing as omicron spreads. MassGeneral Brigham, the state’s largest hospital system, says hospitals will begin limiting visitors to one at a time, two per day. A spokeswoman says hospitals must be in compliance by January 4, 2022.

Starting December 27th, Lifespan, the largest hospital network in Rhode Island will require that visitors show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result. The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association says it doesn’t know of an hospitals in the Commonwealth that are planning to introduce a similar requirement.

Related:

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.

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