Fact check: Are coronavirus patients dying alone in hospitals?

Fact check: Are coronavirus patients dying alone in hospitals?

The claim: Coronavirus patients are dying alone in hospitals

As the number of globally confirmed cases of the coronavirus climbs, hospitals are scrambling to accommodate patients while also ensuring the health and safety of staff.

One Facebook post urged people to think about the patients who are dying alone in hospitals before they leave the house. The post was shared about 7,900 times since March 31.

Hospital accommodations for coronavirus patients range from designating specific units for COVID-19 treatment, asking retired staff to return to work and limiting visitor interaction.

While regulations vary by hospital and by state, in order to prevent more community spread, hospitals in all 50 states, and across the world, are barring visitors.

There is no sweeping regulation that prohibits visitors, but many hospitals have implemented a no-visitor policy.

For example, MedStar Health, the Washington, D.C., area, released new guidelines for all of its hospitals, that went into effect on April 3, stating no visitors are permitted at any hospital location. Any exceptions were subject to high-level approval. The University of Chicago Medical Center implemented a visitor restriction policy that gives a one-visitor exception for labor and delivery.

Most hospitals that have implemented these restrictions are only making exceptions for patients receiving end-of-life care, children who have been hospitalized and women in labor.

It is unknown what factors are taken into consideration when determining visitor allowance, especially if the patient has been infected with the coronavirus. Hospitals evaluate each visitation request on a case-by-case basis.

Northwell Health in New York is requiring its hospitals to suspend all visitation unless there is an extraordinary circumstance. The hospital system has provided for some exceptions that require a visitor has not been exposed to COVID-19.

Under such policies across the country, implementation of visitor restrictions falls typically to individual hospitals, but those decisions could be overruled if state or federal government steps in.

The New York-Presbyterian hospital system barred all visitors after discovering multiple patients in its labor and delivery units had the coronavirus, despite showing minimal or no symptoms. Following this move, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring all medical facilities licensed by the state to allow one visitor for patients in labor.

The CDC released a hospital preparedness checklist to help prepare hospitals for the event of a community outbreak. It includes several suggestions on visitation and communicating hospital policies on visitation rules.

Limits on visitors have taken an emotional toll on health care workers as well as the families of patients who have died alone. These deaths in isolation have prompted health care workers and officials to question when patients can have visitors or if it should be allowed at all.

Our ruling: Partly true

The post claiming coronavirus patients are dying alone has been rated PARTLY TRUE because it is partly supported by our research. While there is not a sweeping, national regulation barring all visitors from all facilities across the country, many hospitals have implemented no-visitor policies or minimal visitor interaction policies and some states, like New York, have imposed limits on visitation as well.

Exceptions to these policies and limitations generally have been made for patients receiving end-of-life care, hospitalized children and women in labor. Sincerequests for visitation are generally being evaluated on a case-by-case basis by each hospital, the factors taken into consideration are inconsistent and unknown.

Our fact-check sources:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Hospitals: CMS Flexibilities to Fight COVID-19University of Chicago Medicine, Visitor Policy Changes at UChicago Medicine for COVID-19Northwell Health, Updated hospital visitor policyNew York Times, ‘Women Will Not Be Forced to Be Alone When They Are Giving Birth’New York Times, Italy’s Coronavirus Victims Face Death Alone, With Funerals Postponed CDC, Comprehensive Hospital Preparedness Checklist for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)New York Dept. of Health, Health Advisory: COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Operators Regarding Visitation Updated Guidance regarding Obstetrical and Pediatric SettingsNew York Times, Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front LinesPeople are dying alone because of the coronavirus. This journalist told the story of a nurse trying to help families stay connected.MedStar Health visitor policiesNew York Times, 'A Heart-Wrenching Thing’: Hospital Bans on Visits Devastate FamiliesNurses work outside of the room of a coronavirus patient at MedStar St. Mary's Hospital April 8, 2020 in Leonardtown, Maryland. MedStar St. Marys Hospital is located near the greater Washington, DC area in St. Marys County, Maryland.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/04/09/fact-check-coronavirus-patients-dying-alone-hospitals/5114282002/

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