St. Luke’s Moves to Restrict Visitation Because of Covid ‘Surge’

Print More
Est. Read Time: 4 mins
St Lukes Health Network Vaccination

St. Luke’s University Hospital-Bethlehem is one of 14 hospitals in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey that are part of St. Luke’s University Health Network. The network employs approximately 17,000 people across its campuses. SLUHN officials announced Wednesday that they will once again restrict visitation at hospitals due to a surge in COVID cases (FILE PHOTO)

St. Luke’s University Health Network announced Wednesday that it has “updated its hospital visitor policy in response to a dramatic, ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases caused by patients who contracted the virus after refusing to be vaccinated.”

The health network said it is currently treating approximately 220 COVID-19 inpatient cases across its 14 campuses, which a news release said is “virtually the same number the Network had in its care at this time last year, before peaking in late December/early January.”

The release further noted that “more than 80 percent of current COVID inpatients (at SLUHN hospitals) are unvaccinated.”

“The current surge, largely driven by the unvaccinated population, is placing an enormous burden on our region’s health care system,” said Jeffrey Jahre, MD, St. Luke’s Vice President of Medical & Academic Affairs and Section Chief Emeritus of Infectious Diseases. “Unvaccinated COVID patients are filling up hospital beds and exhausting medical staff and limited resources.”

“If Pennsylvania moves to restrict elective procedures, it will be due to the strain placed on hospitals by COVID patients who contracted the disease after refusing to be vaccinated,” Jahre said. “Sadly, the current surge was avoidable. It is being driven by people who chose not to be vaccinated. Our statistics tell the story.”

St. Luke’s University Health Network said that under its updated visitor policy released Wednesday, it “highly recommend(s) that all visitors be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

The Pa. Department of Health says hospitals don’t need its permission to implement new visitor policies in response to COVID-19, however “policies must adhere to federal and state law.”

Under the department’s “Guidance on Hospitals’ Responses to COVID-19,” a subsection on hospital visitor policies is silent on the issue of vaccine requirements, but says “hospitals should follow their Emergency Preparedness Plan and the department encourages hospitals to take any other appropriate measures to protect patient and staff safety.”

According to the updated St. Luke’s University Health Network visitor policy, up to two visitors per patient will be allowed for the duration of the patient’s hospitalization at all of its hospital locations, with the following restrictions:*

  • Visiting hours are between 12 and 8 p.m. for up to two visitors ages 12 and older.
  • Masks are to be worn over a visitor’s nose and mouth for the duration of their visit.
  • Visitors must maintain social distance for the duration of their visit.
  • Eating/drinking by visitors should be limited to hospital cafeterias, as available. Visitors may not eat/drink while in patient rooms or waiting areas because doing so requires the removal of masks.
  • Visitation for COVID-19 positive patients is prohibited, except for those nearing end of life.
  • For patients with cognitive or intellectual disabilities, one support person may remain with the patient.

Under the updated visiting procedures, St. Luke’s said “visitors must be in good health and may be subject to a health screening.”

The following specialty-specific guideline updates were also shared by St. Luke’s on Wednesday:

  • Pediatrics
    • Two parents or guardians or a parent and an assigned support person visitation of a child on the inpatient pediatric unit, pediatric ICU or neonatal ICU may occur at any time.
  • Obstetrics
    • Two visitors plus one certified doula (if discussed and approved by OB provider) are permitted.
    • Visiting hours are based on the unit’s policy. Policies will be reviewed with patients and their families at the time of admission.
    • Siblings are allowed to visit, per the unit policy.
  • Behavioral Health
    • No visitors, per specialty policy.
  • Skilled Nursing
    • All visitors must be screened.
    • To ensure social distancing, there is a limit of two visitors at a time.
  • End of Life
    • Visitation can occur at any time, but it is preferred that the following times are avoided:
      6:45 to 7:15 a.m. and 6:45 to 7:15 p.m.
    • Visitors may not congregate in common or waiting room areas while waiting to visit.
  • Oncology
    • Visitors are not permitted in infusion centers or radiation therapy areas.
  • Same Day Surgeries
    • One visitor is permitted for patients undergoing same-day surgeries and procedures.
  • Emergency Department
    • One visitor per patient is permitted in the Emergency Department.

St. Luke’s said it “understands its visitor policy might present difficulties for some patients, family members and friends,” and that it is “sympathetic to those concerns.”

“At the same time, we must be responsible to the communities we serve and do what’s best to protect everyone,” the news release said. “We urge those who might be impacted to please cooperate with our physicians, nurses and staff as they help our organizations fight COVID-19.”

Individuals planning to visit a SLUHN facility should refer to the St. Luke’s University Health Network website for additional details and updates.

To view Lehigh Valley Health Network’s current visitation policy, click here. To view Good Shepherd Rehabilitation’s hospital visitation policy, click here. Good Shepherd recommends that visitors call 610-776-3100 for current visitation guidelines.

*Policies and guidelines may vary at St. Luke’s Warren Campus to comply with New Jersey directives.

Leave a Review or Comment