HaysMed restricts visitor access



Taking a lead from hospitals throughout the country, Hays Medical Center on Friday began restricting visitors during the flu season.

"I've been following numbers across the nation," said Bevra Brinkman, infection control officer/quality specialist at HaysMed. "Our cases for influenza are very low, but the important thing to know is that it will certainly creep our way.

"It's something you need to be proactive about. Our role is to keep people safe."

Visitors who have symptoms of influenza or who are 12 years of age or younger will not be allowed on patient floors. Signs with a large stop sign on them, noting the restrictions, are posted at the main entrance.

Flu-like symptoms range from fever, headache and body aches to weakness, cough and sore throat and runny or stuffy nose.

"No. 1 at Hays Medical Center is patient safety," Brinkman said. "We take that very seriously, so if you have any symptoms of influenza, we do not want you visiting."

Shae Veach, vice president of regional operations at HaysMed, said he hopes people "will use common sense and pay attention to flu signs and symptoms."

He said it is not unusual for hospitals to implement such a policy, especially in light of flu outbreaks such as that in Boston, which has declared a public health emergency.

"We would do it almost every year," Veach said of the Stanton County Hospital in Johnson in southwest Kansas, where he spent eight years as its CEO before coming to Hays nearly two years ago.

Veach said it was a combination of HaysMed's medical executive committee and administration to "institute the policy, knowing what is going on throughout the nation."

"We're taking some precautionary measures," he said.

Brinkman said the restrictions will not affect people coming to see physicians themselves.

"Certainly, there are doctors' offices to get to (in the building). So as far as coming to a clinic or physician's office, that's fine," she said. "We just don't want anyone who could be ill themselves visiting patients who are ill. We're just trying to stop spreading the influenza."

Schools good -- for now

Mary Ann Shorman, the lead nurse for Hays USD 489, confirmed Hays public schools have not been hit hard by flu yet, either.

For example, only nine students were absent Friday from Wilson Elementary School, one of the largest elementaries in Hays with 375 students. And just 25 were absent from Hays Middle School's 600-some student body.

"That's only 4 percent (for HMS), which is good for the winter," Shorman said. "We saw a lot of health room traffic before Christmas, but not so much since we got back to school (this week)."

That was the same case at Holy Family Elementary School, one of two private schools in Hays, Principal Rachel Wentling said.

"There was a lot of sickness before Christmas," she said. "But that was more with a stomach virus. We haven't had significantly more gone from school this week than usual."

Shorman said the Hays school district has started a program to track different kinds of illnesses.

"Just yesterday, I set up our health program to track students missing because of sickness," Shorman said Friday afternoon. "We want to know if they have a fever, cough, sore throat, achy body, and notify me if they are noticing those symptoms. I suspect we will see more as the winter progresses."