Steamboat Springs Yampa Valley Medical Center released guidelines Wednesday afternoon restricting who may visit patients at the hospital.
The guidelines, modeled closely on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's recommendations for hospitals, are meant to protect patients and community members from the H1N1 influenza and other viruses, YVMC Public Relations Director Christine McKelvie said.
Children younger than 13 are not allowed to visit patients, with an exception for the Family Birth Place, "where healthy children of any age will be allowed in the appropriate patient care room only," according to the release.
Any hospital visitor who is not seeking medical care must be in good health, McKelvie said Wednesday afternoon. "Health" in this case is defined as not having a fever, body aches, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, coughing or sneezing, she said.
No more than four visitors are allowed with a patient at a time, and all visitors will be asked to check in at the nurses' station. Some visitors may be asked to wear a mask, visit at another time or follow special guidelines, according to the release. The hospital will provide a mask for anyone who's asked to wear one, McKelvie said.
The guidelines also require visitors to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before entering or exiting a patient room. They encourage people with weak immune systems and women who are pregnant to avoid the hospital if they are not seeking medical care.
Aside from the Family Birth Place exception for children age 12 and younger, YVMC's guidelines are similar to what the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recommended, McKelvie said.
"These are the recommendations. Some hospitals are getting more restrictive or perhaps they make some allowances, so we did individualize them a little bit," McKelvie said.
The guidelines went into effect Wednesday and will be posted at www.yvmc.org.
As of Wednesday afternoon, all hospital employees had been notified about the new rules, and signs were being posted at all entrances and patient care areas, McKelvie said. Signs also might be posted on the door of each patient room, she said.
McKelvie said the hospital has not set an end date for the restrictions.
"At this time, we do anticipate it would be through the flu season. The regular flu season generally lasts into April. : So we anticipate this may be in place all winter long. However, we will update the community as things change, if they change," she said.