Canadian doctors: No visitation for COVID-19 hospital patients could cause more harm than good


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — John “Hush Puppy” Williams took his last breath Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center, Jan. 15 after battling COVID-19.

Like most hospitals, Maryview in Portsmouth has a no-visitation policy for patients who are battling the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus. A spokesperson for a Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association said medical facilities have strict policies to protect patients, staff, and the community, especially during a pandemic.

(Photo courtesy: Kristie Chappell)

“Health care providers have to be attuned to both the emotional consideration of family members but also limiting community spread,” said Julian Walker, the vice president of communications for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

Williams’ daughter, Kristie Chappell, is a registered nurse and understands the risks. She even proposed signing a liability release so her father could have visitors, but family members say that the offer was denied.

However, the hospital helps to facilitate teleconference calls to pair patients and loved ones via live video. Chappell says she learned her father was restrained at both wrists, his feet, and midsection. Via phone calls and video, she saw what she claims are signs of neglect.

“Imagine having your hands and feet and abdominal area or torso tied down. You cannot reach your family, you cannot reach your phone, you cannot reach your water, you cannot reach your call light,” Chappell said, describing the last days of her father’s life.

Chappell says her father complained the oxygen tubes were irritating. She shared still images that apparently showed the tubes were not properly inserted in his nose.

“Three different occasions when his oxygen was out of his nose. So he had five-point restraints with no oxygen, flat on his back fighting for breath,” said Chappell.

John “Hush Puppy” Williams while sick with COVID-19 in Maryview in Portsmouth.
(Photo courtesy: Kristie Chappell)

One year into the pandemic and thousands of lives later, some doctors in Canada are going public with their concerns.

In a recent publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, three doctors wrote: “We believe that restrictive visitor policies may do more harm than good in specific settings, and there are specific circumstances where hospital visitation policies should be relaxed with careful use of [personal protective equipment].”

The spokesman for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association says as the vaccine rollout continues, visitation policies remain under review.

“These visitation policies are constantly being re-evaluated. Health care providers and health care administrators are looking at all the research, whether it’s the article out of the health journal in Canada or whether it’s other best practices of their colleagues in Virginia or other states, they are constantly re-evaluating.”

Walker recommends patients and loved ones review hospital visitation policies that are posted online and amended when a change is required by the facility.

“Throughout the pandemic, there have been shifts in visitation policies. When the numbers went up some of the visitation policies got very tight. As some of the numbers went down, some hospitals adjusted their visitation policy,” said Walker.

The Williams family told 10 On Your Side that if hospitals decide to allow visitation for COVID-19 patients, they will help needy local families buy personal protective equipment that would be required in medical facilities.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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