HOUSTON — In one of the largest medical centers in the country, the coronavirus is changing how some of Houston’s hospitals do business.
The Woman’s Hospital of Texas will now start screening visitors who come to see patients. Its owner, HCA Houston Healthcare, released a statement saying it’s 14 area hospitals will allow two visitors at a time per patient.
“In a strange way, your doctor’s office is going to become the safest place you can possibly go," said Dr. Clive Fields, Chief Medical Officer for VillageMD.
But doctor’s offices are changing their protocols, too. Dr. Fields' clinic saw two of the confirmed coronavirus cases in the Houston area. Now, he has five employees under a precautionary 14-day self quarantine.
“All the healthcare workers that took care of these patients, doctors and nurses are also doing well without any signs of pre-respiratory disease," he said.
Protecting healthcare workers is a concern as the coronavirus continues to spread.
“In many hospitals and clinics, nurses do not have the necessary personal protective equipment," said Bonnie Castillo, RN and Executive Director of National Nurses United in a press conference earlier this week in California.
President Donald Trump on Friday signed an $8.3 billion dollar bill to help fight the coronavirus. But how long it will take to get that money to the front lines of medical communities like Houston is anyone’s guess.
“We certainly hope we won’t see additional cases of COVID-19, but all the data now says we will continue to see cases at least in the short term," Dr. Fields said.
A spokesman for Ben Taub said the hospital will start screening visitors officially on Monday and will limit patients to one visitor. Texas Children’s Hospital also told us they would start screening visitors and released this statement:
"For the safety of our patients, Texas Children’s is currently in the process of altering our visitation policy. We have teams organized that are meeting on a regular basis to address the system-wide needs of this fluid situation. Those teams are reviewing options daily.
"We want everyone to know that we have a detailed plan in place to identify, isolate and treat suspected cases of contagious infectious diseases. In step with CDC guidelines, we elevated our screening activities weeks ago based on our protocols at all Texas Children’s facilities. Currently, we screen all patients at every point of entry across our health care system in Houston and Austin. We are closely following the CDC and updating our screening protocols based on their guidelines. Texas Children’s Hospital’s highest priority is the health and safety of those we serve."
KHOU 11 News reached out to Memorial Hermann, and a spokesman said the hospital has not changed its visitor policy, but they are continuing to evaluate the situation.
People who are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms or have traveled to any high-risk locations are encouraged to call their doctor or seek medical care through telemedicine or virtual care options, including eVisits and Virtual Care available through Memorial Hermann Everyday Well.
Memorial Hermann's focus is to ensure the health and wellbeing of our workforce and community, and do all we can to contain the potential spread of COVID-19. As such, we are encouraging patients who do not need COVID-19 screening to avoid Emergency Centers.
Simple everyday preventive measures - like washing your hands with soap and water, avoiding close contact with someone who is sick and wiping down surfaces - are the best defense against coronavirus.
We also reached out to Methodist Hospital, and a spokeswoman said at this time, the visitor policy has not changed.