As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many EDs have instituted policies that limit or prevent family members and/or loved ones from visiting patients who are being treated for COVID-19. While the initial intent was to limit the exposure of visitors to the virus, the practice has instead led to arguments, despair, and friction between the visitors and the emergency department staff.
From a patient perspective, experience has proven that the support of loved ones is crucial during the treatment process. Limiting a patient’s contact with their loved ones can also be detrimental to their recovery. With proper screening questions, temperature checks, and appropriate personal protective equipment usage, COVID patients can be allowed visitors at the bedside while still adhering to current CDC guidelines. As these guidelines change, so should the screening and selection of ED visitors.
Though we recognize the current concerns in regard to the available PPE for ED staff, we urge that PPE contingency plans include the availability of the PPE to ED visitors as well.
AAEM requests that emergency department policies be modified to allow at least one visitor per patient during these difficult times. Each visitor should be provided with the requisite personal protective equipment appropriate for their circumstances, and in accordance with CDC guidelines. This compassionate visitor policy should be available for all patients during their ED course, and not just those at their end-of-life period.