Lakeland Regional Health has announced it is curtailing visitors and postponing non-critical elective surgeries as it prepares for the possibility of treating COVID-19 patients.

The move to postpone non-emergency and non-urgent elective procedures and surgeries will “help to reserve much-needed supplies and manage hospital capacity so we are prepared to care for people diagnosed with COVID-19 and other patients who need our services,” LRH says in a message at the top of its home page.

Patients whose procedures are being postponed will be contacted, the hospital said.

Dr. Daniel Haight, LRH’s medical director of infection prevention, will answer COVID-19 questions all day on Wednesday through the hospital’s Instagram stories

Hospital visitors

The visitor restrictions at the hospital on Lakeland Hills Boulevard took effect Monday morning.

“At this unusual time, we do understand that this policy change could be disconcerting for patients and community members and want to provide exceptions for those most affected by this change of policy,” according to a statement on the LRH home page.

Visitors who don’t meet those exceptions will be asked to return home, the hospital says. People 16 and under will not be allowed in LRH facilities unless they are the patient.

The exceptions:

  • Obstetric patients going to the hospital may have one partner accompany them.
  • Pediatric inpatients, including patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), may have both parents accompany their child during their stay.
  • Patients who are at the end-of-life may have visitors with the approval of the nursing leader in charge of that particular unit.
  • Patients with disruptive behavior, altered mental status or development delays  in which a family member is key to their care, may have one visitor with the approval of the nursing leader in charge of that particular unit.
  • Patients undergoing urgent or emergent surgery or procedures or have had significant trauma related injuries may have one visitor with the approval of the nursing leader in charge of that surgical or procedural area.
  • Companions accompanying patients to the emergency departments in which the companion is key to the patients care may be allowed with the approval of the Emergency Department nursing leadership.
  • At the discretion of the Children’s Emergency Department leadership, other children accompanying parents arriving to the pediatric emergency department for urgent or emergent care of their child may be permitted to stay.
  • Patients in the Bannasch Institute for Advanced Acute Rehabilitation Unit may have one designated visitor with the approval of the nursing leader in charge.

Outpatient clinics

LRH is also restricting companions accompanying patients to its outpatient clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exceptions are made for companions who are “key to providing adequate healthcare information to the provider … All others will need to wait in their vehicle or outside the building until the patient has finished their appointment.”

As of Monday night, Florida’s Department of Health reports two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lakeland and 13 in all of Polk. So far, 249 people have been tested in Polk, a county with an estimated population over 700,000.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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