Our visitation guidelines have been designed to support the health and safety of our patients and employees. With this in mind, our primary objectives are limiting exposure to respiratory illnesses and helping to contain the COVID-19 virus, all while balancing patient needs for family support.
Patient representative (as defined by CMS): This is the individual who is legally responsible for making medical decisions on a patient's behalf. (See also: Advance Directives Withholding & Withdrawing Life Sustaining Treatment and Treatment Disagreement Process and Consent to Medical Treatment.)
Patient support person (as defined by CMS): This person does not necessarily have to be the same as the patient representative. A support person could be a family member, friend or any individual who supports the patient during the course of the hospital stay. In cases of pediatric patients, Child Protective Services (CPS) may assign a support person as part of a CPS Safety Plan.
Qualifying period of disaster (QPD): Texas House Bill 2211 defines a QPD as the period of time in which a hospital is declared to be a disaster based on an infectious disease. The declaration can be made by a governor, state official or designated local official.
What you can expect from Methodist Healthcare System (MHS)
Upon entering one of our facilities, all potential visitors will be screened for signs or symptoms, including fever, of lower respiratory illness. No potential visitor is permitted to enter the building if signs or symptoms of COVID-19 are present. If no symptoms persist and the visitor is allowed to enter, they will receive education from an MHS clinical staff member on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) use and disposal, hand hygiene, safe surface-touching, social distancing and movement within the facility.
On each visit, MHS will provide the following PPE:
- Non fit-tested N95 mask, if available
- (If a non fit-tested N95 is not available, a Level-I procedure mask will be issued.)
- Face shield
- Gown, if necessary
If visitation is not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions or other reasons, the use of alternative communication tools (tablets, phones, etc.) is encouraged so that patients can maintain contact with their loved ones.
What MHS expects of visitors
The safety of our patients and staff is critical to ensuring uninterrupted operations at our facilities. As such, it is important that visitors understand the nature of our policies and know that they have been designed with their safety in mind.
The following is a list of expectations MHS has of all visitors:
- If a location has COVID-19 patients, there are limitations on the number of visitors that are allowed at one time.
- Visitors are expected to schedule visitations that allow enough time for the appropriate COVID-19 screening, education and training.
- Once inside, visitors are expected to follow social distancing guidelines at all times, as well as limiting their movement to only their patient's room. Those who do not comply will be escorted from the facility.
- If a visitor fails to meet, or refuses to submit to the requirements of, the hospital's health screening and PPE protocols, they will be removed from or asked to leave the premises.
- Visitors should understand that visiting a patient with COVID-19 puts them at risk for exposure to the virus. By entering the facility, visitors agree to accept all responsibility for that risk.
- To schedule a visit, please contact the patient's nurse.
- All visits must be approved in advance, and visitation times will be limited in accordance with hospital visiting hours, unless the visitor is the patient's designated representative or support person.
Patient visitation and COVID-19 screening policies
We take the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. Our visiting rules are rooted in patient health and safety, and patients are informed of their visitation rights at the time of registration. However, we are also happy to address any questions or concerns that a patient or patient representative may have at any time.
Our current visitor policies are as follows:
- Visitors must be 18 years old or older, have had no known close contact with someone confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 within the last 14 days, and have no pending COVID-19 test results.
- Minors may visit, but only if they are accompanied by an adult who is not the patient.
- Visitors must wear a mask at all times, both inside and outside of patient rooms.
- Patients may have up to two visitors at a time during normal visitation hours. During this time, patients have the right and authority to designate who may or may not visit, including, but not limited to, a spouse, domestic partner, family member, friend, attorney, physician or clergyman. Accordingly, patients have the right to withdraw or deny visitation consent at any time.
- Visitors will not be restricted or denied visitation based on age, race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or disability.
- While all visitors are treated in accordance with hospital visitor policies, the hospital may impose visitation restrictions for reasons that include:
- Infection control issues
- Visitation that interferes with the care of the patient or other patients
- Knowledge of an existing court order restricting contact with the patient
- The visitor is a disruption to the patient or other patients
- The patient, or patient's roommate, is undergoing a procedure that requires privacy, including aerosol-generating procedures or the collection of respiratory specimens
- If there is a need for communication exclusively between caregivers and patient
- If the number of visitors compromises the safety of the physical environment and/or the ability to access life-saving measures/equipment
- If a visitor is denied in-person visitation by an attending physician, the attending physician must provide the visitor with daily written, oral or virtual updates of the patient's condition and estimated discharge date, but only if the visitor is authorized to receive the patient's health information (i.e., an advance directive, if they have medical power of attorney, or if they are an identified surrogate decision-maker).
- Once a patient has designated their representative and/or support person, whether orally or in writing, the hospital will assist the representative in carrying out the patient's rights and wishes when the patient may not be able to do so themselves.
- In the event that a patient has both a representative and a support person and they disagree on who should be allowed to visit the patient, the hospital must defer to the decisions of the patient representative. The hospital's Bioethics Review Team may also be utilized to help resolve the conflict.
- Only one adult overnight visitor is allowed in private rooms. In semi-private rooms, overnight visitors are only allowed with agreement by both patients (roommates). Overnight visitors in adult semi-private rooms must be same sex as the patients in the room.
- Patients have the right to speak privately with anyone they wish, unless a doctor deems it medically unwise.
- If a declaration of Qualified Period of Disaster (QPD) has been made by state officials, MHS hospitals may:
- Restrict the number of visitors for a patient to one visitor (at least one visitor must be allowed per patient during the QPD);
- Require the visitor to complete a health screening before entering the hospital and wear PPE at all times while visiting in the hospital.
- Deny entry, or remove from the hospital's premises, a visitor who fails or refuses to submit to or meet the requirements of the hospital's health screening and/or wear PPE that meets the hospital's infection control and safety requirements as prescribed by the hospital.
- If an attending physician has determined that a patient or patient's visitor is contagious with an infectious agent that poses serious community health risk, they may write an order denying the patient's visitation. This order is valid for five days and may be renewed by an attending physician.
- Media representatives and photographers must contact the hospital spokesperson for access to the hospital. (See also, Release of Information to News Media and Photographing, Video Recording, Audio Recording, and Other Imaging of Patients, Visitors and Workforce Members.)