Sentara to limit hospital visitation amid growing concerns over coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 5:39 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 00:00:44-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — Sentara Healthcare announced Wednesday that it will limit hospital visitation amid growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The policy was updated on Thursday, March 12, the day it went into effect. Visiting hours will be in effect between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Routine hospital visitation is now limited to two visitors per patient in the building at any given time. There is no age restriction on the updated visitation policy.

Sentara will adjust for end-of-life situations when families want to gather at the bedside.

Hospital officials encourage people to stay in touch with loved ones via video options, telephone or email rather than in-person contact. This will reduce potential exposures for patients and other visitors and help Sentara officials keep their hospitals safe.

You are encouraged to stay home if you are coughing, sneezing or have a fever or you have traveled overseas.

To protect the most vulnerable residents, Sentara Life Care nursing centers, rehabilitation centers, PACE and Sentara's assisted living village will have the following visitation policy:

  • Visitors are limited to two people in total per day between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • All visitors to senior facilities will be asked screening questions about recent travel, current state of health and to sign a visitor book upon entry and exit

Additionally, the Sentara College of Health Sciences has suspended in-person classes. Online learning will continue, as well as skills labs, simulations and clinical rotations in hospitals. Student questions can be directed to and to (757) 388-5846.

Visitors to Sentara facilities are encouraged to use antibacterial foam/sanitizer upon entering and leaving patient rooms and to wash their hands with soap and water when available, especially after blowing your nose or touching your face. Health officials say this is one of the most effective ways to control the spread of any communicable disease.

Sentara RMH Medical Center also announced Thursday that it has tested a patient who has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. Hospital officials are continuing to work closely with the Virginia Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Visitors are asked not to come to the hospital if they are sick with coughing, sneezing or fever or if they have traveled internationally.

Sentara says they now have access to tests through commercial laboratories and will use these if testing cannot be obtained through state health departments and a doctor thinks screening is advisable. Sentara laboratories also expect to be able to conduct COVID-19 testing in house at regional sites in the next few weeks. Hospital staff is purchasing the needed equipment and is creating a process to make sure testing can be turned around quickly.

Optimal Health is handling the COVID-19 testing as preventive care for infections diseases screening. Optimal health is helping members manage testing and treatment for the virus by:

  • Waiving out-of-pocket member costs associated with COVID-19 diagnostic testing at any in-network lab location for all commercial, Medicaid or Medicare Advantage members.
  • Offering tele-health visits free to members (i.e., no member co-pays or cost-share) for in-network virtual care partners. Tele-Health options include Sentara Video Visits between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and our 24-hour partner organization, MDLIVE.

If you have a respiratory illness that includes a fever, cough and/or shortness of breath and you meet travel or exposure criteria for COVID-19, you are advised to take the following steps:

  • Call your healthcare provider to determine the safest screening method for you. If you are a Sentara patient, this may include a video visit.
  • Please consider a virtual visit to determine if you need further screening or testing. Many insurance plans, including Optima Health, will cover the member cost of testing for COVID-19. Options include Sentara Video Visits or MDLIVE.
  • If you have a respiratory illness that includes a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath AND you meet travel or exposure criteria for COVID-19, AND you do not have a primary care physician, cannot participate in a virtual visit, or a visit has recommended further screening or testing for COVID-19, visit your local emergency department. Please call in advance so that infection prevention precautions may be taken to protect you, other patients, visitors and employees.

Stay with News 3 for updates.